The Colonial GT batrep and review by Jawaballs

I took several days to mull over how I feel about The Colonial GT.  What I did not want to do was sit down and type out a knee jerk response full of emotions.  Also, I needed to think about how to write something not exactly positive without sounding sour.  To be a fair reviewer, I need to provide all the facts as I see them, in as unbiased a form as possible.  No easy task!  Especially when I was competing for both Battle and Painting honors.  This review will be in three forms. First of all I will talk about the fantastic event as a whole.  Then I will talk about the battles. And I will finish with the presentation judging.

Before any of that I want to say that Chris Nanry, the overall event organizer, is an incredibly honest and passionate dude. I got a chance to talk to him briefly after hours and the way he talked about his event you can see the love and devotion he puts into making it the best he can.  Chris, I can say without a doubt that the fruits of your efforts show. Well done.

Also, I want to say that I am not here to disparage any other artist or player. The competition level on the tables was amongst the strongest I have seen at any GT ever and the painters brought their A game.  There were very few Baby Seals here in both categories.  I did not envy the judges one bit.

On with the review.

Overall Event:
Jersey sucks. Hehe. Sorry guys, but if I could go to 40k events and not have to drive through Jersey for the rest of my life and have nothing else good happen, ever, I would die a happy man.  Jim, the Stout Smurf and I left work at about 2:30, and arrived in Princeton well over 3 hours later. It should have taken half that time. Traffic, weird routes, Interstate 95 and suck ass bridges are all to blame.  (I'm just playing about Jersey by the way. It does suck, but it is not as bad as I make it out to be.)

All of the suck of Jersey aside though, pulling up to the event location was like a breath of fresh air. It was absolutely beautiful.  It was not just a hotel, but a sprawling resort complex! There were restaurants, shops amenities, all connected in a nice (If very forced) colonial sort of architectural facade. The staff was refreshingly pleasant and courteous, for Jersey. The hotel was beautiful and the room was spacious.

The event was split between 40k and WHFB.  This was the first year as a 40k event and they brought in Dave from The Brothers Grim in Selden, NY to run it. He is an experienced Tournament Organizer. The main room for WHFB was big with plenty of room and good lighting. There was also a bar set up and The Warstore set up shop too!  The 40k room though was a bit tighter. The lighting was poor. It was obviously a room intended for intimate balls and dinner galas. Not 40k.  But we will take what we can get!  This in no way detracted from the 40k experience and actually inspired some of the participants to be very loving. Cough Bill cough.

I think any problems I had with the venue were simply from the venue underestimating a couple of hundred nerds.  Chris said he warned them and warned them, but they would not listen. There was a small Starbucks selling breakfast items, but actually trying to get one before games began was near impossible. What I can say is that Chris is on top of things. After the first wave of angry 40k nerds waited and waited for coffee and muffin tops, Starbucks went to him and asked for a schedule so that they could be better prepared.  He smiled that "I told you so" smile and things were made right.  In fact, the entire venue went to him with shock and excitement. They simply doubted that he would follow through with his promises. By the end of the event, they were pretty much offering him any thing he wanted to come back next year.  Like a bunch of ravenous nurglings we descended upon that place and cleared them out. Nerd Power!  Next year they intend to give us the grand ball room, wedding schedule permitting.

They did do good by us overall. They created special menu items with hungry gamers in mind. Pizza and Wings. (The restaurant in the hotel was a very upscale joint boasting Tuna Tar Tar, Flan and 30 dollar filet of Salmon.) Not quite nerd food! The pocket friendly options were a nice touch. They offered 3 dollar bottled beer special to all participants throughout the weekend. In the 40k room there was no bar, but there was a hot beer wench graciously braving the maze of man funk to make sure that we all had our brews and cocktails.  The restaurant bar was manned by a tall and wry fellow with a quick sense of humor and sharp eye for attention.  No need to coddle gamers like most of his regular foo foo patrons. Keep the bud lights flowing with a pile of wings and bowl of ranch mixed with the right amount of tough love and you have the secret ingredient to keeping us happy.  He knew that instinctively. If we wanted to get fancy we got ourselves some Calamari on a pretty plate. Well done.

Friday night began with a flurry of sneezes from me and an alergic reaction to nutts. I didn't know I was alergic to them... Damn getting old.  A pretty nasty cold set in and at the same time my lips swelled up and voice disappeared for a few hours. I fought through it as tough as I could. Nice way to start a GT Jawaballs.

After check in we went down to the WHFB gaming room. It was set up for us to have open gaming and fun. Jim and I got in a couple of games and I introduced Smurf to Ted Nagel.  The smurf cooler took it's first beating of the weekend and the dice rolled.  The atmosphere was friendly and fun. I have said it a dozen times before, but this is why I go to these things. I can care less about Best Presentation or Best General compared to the friendly laughs and fun that take place throughout the weekend. For example, we were tickled to find out that Bill McFadden and Simon had accepted an invite from Nick Nanavati to stay at his place. It was not until they arrived and were sitting at the dinner table with Mom and Dad that they realized Nick was only 17 years old and lived with his parents.  (Nick is mature beyond his years.) Just imagine the fun we had with that.  "Sure honey, your friends can stay for the weekend!" Must certainly have given way to "Dear, there are two 36 year old men that our son met online sharing his room." And yes, we did go there... Nick's mom. Lol, picking on Bill made my entire weekend thankfully. Haha I am laughing now just thinking about the scene. It's all in good fun guys! Without all those laughs I think the cold would have gotten the best of me. Too funny.

The tournament was of course well run.  The tables were brought in from all over. Tony Spino from The Mechanicon, The guys from Brothers Grim and of course the local guys combined their efforts to make the tables and terrain outstanding.  Greg Sabino took charge and made sure every table was balanced and fair. There was line of sight blocking terrain and a mix of foliage and ruin.  With only a minor hiccup because of late arriving trucks things got off to an almost on time start. In fact, they actually had too much stuff! The Mechanicon guys had to shuffle stuff back out to the trucks while guys were setting up their armies to make room.

They stuck to schedule and had us in and out. I would like to say that the rewards were brief, but I cannot. It seemed there was an unending line of guys trying to announce their events. (Which is what prompted me to not get on the mic myself and hock the Heroes of Armageddon. Booyah! Consider it mentioned. Donate at the top right of the page.)  At this point on Sunday my head was throbbing and I could barely breath which may be more the reason why I even bring up this point of annoyance. I'm not sure it is necessary for so many Tournament Organizers to get up there and do promotions. Maybe that can take place at the beginning? Who knows, but after 2 days of gaming and drinking the last thing any one wants to do is listen to a line of guys shout at them. Believe me, I love all of these events and it is very important that they be promoted. Mike Clark, Tony Spino and all of the other guys are great people and run fantastic events. But to me it was obvious by the barely contained murmur in the room that few people were listening and we all just wanted to get a move on. In this regard, Jwolf at Wargamescon has run the most mercifully brief awards ceremony I have ever seen.  Literally 15 minutes after Dice Down at Bolscon, Fritz and I were sitting in the hotel bar in Austin having a burger. I think the rest of the independent TOs could take this page from the Jwolf book.

 A huge pile of loot was given out for raffle. But it seems I missed the raffle put on by The Warstore. No big. Oh, and I want to say that I hate you Warstore.  I walked into your little store and left with about 50 bucks less in my pocket. I got my hands on those resin bits in little blisters thanks to the drool dripping off Ted Nagel's lips and I could not help myself. I will write about those some other time.

So that about wraps up my review of the overall event. Chris was gracious and thankful, as any host should be. The facilities were fantastic. There was a couple of restaurants like a Pub and Steakhouse, as well as a small food court with Subway, sushi and pizza.  Dave from Grim ran a solid tournament, as has come to be his norm.  Dameon Green took the top spot overall, while Bob Evers won Best Presentation with his beautiful Salamanders. Player's Choice went to Mark something... I can't remember his name. But I will certainly remember his tag line. "Can I get a six?"  You could hear him shouting it from across the room every 30 seconds.  His Tau army only scored a 10 out of 30 in presentation, but I guess Player's Choice is not always about your army! A little personality it seems goes a long way, and in that regard, he had enough for all of us. Maybe a good lesson for every one. There were certainly issues though. Read on about the Presentation Judging.

I will do batreps another time. This is getting long and I have much more to get off my chest.

Presentation Judging:
I don't know how to give my opinion without sounding like I am stomping on sour grapes. I want to take nothing away from Bob Evers or any other painter. Bob is a talented artist and friendly person. We got a chance to speak and admire each others work, and he also is generous with compliments. I am glad that I got to see his army because it inspires me to do better myself. But I feel the judges confused Best Presentation with Best Painted.  If I was going to compare my army to Bob's Salamanders in a Best Painted competition, if this judging was simply called Best Painted Army, I would agree with the results from The Colonial. His army does look better than mine and he routinely beats me with it. Mine has cohesion issues that I have been struggling with since the beginning. That is what happens when you learn and refine your tactics as you build your army. Mind you I have only been doing this for a couple of years. I have models in my list that I painted when I started and they are simply inferior to my recent ones.  Bob's army pops and his color combination is more eye pleasing than mine.  Is his army better painted? Probably. Did Bob have the Best Presentation? That is the question. (Bob I have nothing but respect for you and your skills. But I think you can agree that I make a good point.)  Since my army was not even close to the top in scoring, I won't compare myself to you. I don't recall what the second place guy had for presentation so I can't make the call, but of the two armies in the top three that I do recall, you definitely were the best. Plus I have made the mistake of baseless comparing myself to you in the past and I admit, I was wrong in those instances. For that I apologize.

But I will compare myself to Ted Nagel!

Check out my point in this video.

Skip to minute 3:00 you will see my army followed by two others. Ted Nagel's Dark Angels and a Space Shark army. Both scored higher than mine in Best Presentation. Not shown with my army is my full sized Blood Angels banner which was also part of the presentation as an extra. Ted is mystified by the result. Since I know Ted and he and I are in agreement on this, I can freely discuss and compare his army without fear of hard feelings.  Ted's painting is flawless. His units are consistent and the army as a whole is smooth and flowing.  But how about his presentation? Painting is only part of the greater whole. Based on the presentation rubric, Ted should have been rewarded for his superior painting and I'm sure he was. For that category of the rubric he must have scored two points higher than me. The options on the rubric that directly cover actual painting are "Initial Impressions and Army Cohesion" and "Advanced Techniques" for a total of 0-12 points. I scored 10 of those points so I am sure Ted must have scored 12? I won't get much more into comparing points here. You make the call. Which army has a better presentation? The judges said Ted's.  Are they right?

Why am I risking derision and being flamed as conceited by even typing this? Because since the colonial I have gotten a half dozen emails from confused guys asking what I thought about their army and the judging in general. A lot of people feel that they scored way less points than they should have while they thought they followed the rubric fairly well. I feel it is my responsibility to act as a voice for those who feel the same way. They say the judging was unnecessarily harsh. Bob's Best Presentation scored 21 out of 30. I scored just over half of the points available at 18 for 7th overall Best Presentation.  My friend Jim, with his first ever and only 40k army scored only two points less than me. I get the feeling that the paint judges were trying to make up for other tournaments where paint scoring is much too liberal and many guys get max painting with a tie breaker coming from sportsmanship.

There is something wrong there.  What is it? Three things. I will begin with the rubric itself.  Some of the categories were misleading and inaccurate. There was a poorly written point scale that left little room for wiggle. In some categories it was all or nothing. My basing for example, while not deserving full points on the rubric, was definitely better then the lowest point total for basing. Instead I got a score that was the equivalent of spraying them with glue adhesive and dipping them in one color of sand because the rubric said one thing but the judges meant another. I have to say that my own estimation of my score was almost spot on with the judges. I low balled what I thought I should have had and found out I was only one point higher than what the judges had given me, before of course we get to the next part.

Next comes the "arbitrary" points. Of the 30 possible points, 9 of them, almost a full third, were left up to the judges whims.  One of them was called "extras".  It was worth 6 points of which I scored 2 and a total of 3 out of 9 from the two arbitrary categories covering things like Theme, fluff, cool objective markers and flaming cauldrons that double as vehicle destroyed markers.  Why bother having a rubric at all if no matter what a third of the paint scores are going to be decided by judges personal taste? I get that judges should be able to reward armies for what they personally consider cool, but maybe a point or two. Not a third of the score! I thought I would score at least 5 of the 9 arbitrary points. I did not.

Finally and this is perhaps the most controversial, comes bias.  A friend and Golden Demon winner said it best when discussing Best Painted and Best Presentation. He goes to compete for "best" at every GT he enters and has won several, and lost more. His thoughts? "In order to beat the local guys your army has to be 10 times better than theirs." It is not enough to walk in with an equally well painted army. Is that because the judges are bad dudes? Hell no. Are they intentionally favoring their friends. Absolutely not.  But a judge who has seen an army and a painter grow over a span of years has a very unique perspective on an army vs an army he has seen for the first time.  That judge knows what the familiar painter has struggled through while he has no clue what the experience of the other painter was. The judge is more likely to lean in the familiar direction. Period. Does it happen? Yes. I do it all the time so I can speak from unique experience. As an art teacher, I absolutely am influenced by kids who I have seen put in more effort. Those kids always get better grades than equally or even more talented kids who I have not seen put in the same amount of growth.  I am guilty of bias, in a good way.

Were the judges guilty of this at The Colonial? I make no accusations. I do know that Dave is a fair and rational dude and that in cases where personal bias may have skewed his opinion he let other judges take point. I have nothing but respect for this and it is why there should always be a panel of judges.

There is another part of bias that has nothing to do with appreciating the growth of a painter. In fact, it is just the opposite. The world of blogging has connected us all in unprecedented ways. I put my stuff out there for all to see. I give you a daily glimpse of my work room and progress. So, based on my previous statement it would be kind of hard to find an unbiased judge who has not seen daily progress of my work. Period.  But there is an even darker side of the blogosphere. While much fewer in numbers, there is always a group of negative nancies out there who love to hate.  What happens if a member of one of those groups lands on the judging committee with a cyber ax to grind? Or even a guy with no ax to grind at all but is merely associated with said group. The obvious answer is that person should announce his bias to his colleagues and excuse himself from taking part in the judging. Does that happen? Can that happen?

One thing can be sure. Eliminating bias from judging, good or bad, is at the least difficult and most likely impossible. It is surely something I would hate to have to try. My hat goes off to Dave for taking the reigns on the judging aspect of The Colonial. I don't envy him in the least.

Am I stomping on Sour Grapes? I would like to think not. I did not win "best presentation" at Valentines, Conflict, Nova, Mechanicon, or a slew of other events and you did not see me screaming. If I was going to complain every time I failed to get best painted my blog would be nothing but a whole string of whining. I speak out here because unlike at all those other events, there is a massive number of unhappy people.  I saw beautiful armies score a 5 out of 30. Even if we eliminate the arbitrary 9 points that is a 5 out of 21. Kevin McDermot scored a 5 with the army that appears at the 1:25 marker of the video. How can that happen? Even if he scored minimal points on the first three parts of the rubric he would have had a 5. Based on the rubric he clearly deserves 4 points for having beyond the 3 color minimum with some effort in his bases, and 2 points for having a simple but flocked and framed display board and 1 for basic basing. That is 7 on the first three categories. He only scored 5? Did he kick some ones cat? Did he land on the wrong side of some ones bias? I did not stop and zoom in on his army because he had a low score, I zoomed in because it looked good.  Something happened here folks!

Now, after being in contact with Dave he has agreed that the Rubric needs work. Willingness to admit to, and to improve and grow from your mistakes is the first step. Aaron from the Conflict is a great example of this. He listened to his players. He made changes. And guys who were not going to go changed their minds and gave him another chance, and were absolutely pleased with the results.  He had the best tournout yet.

What is my overall opinion of The Colonial? I enjoyed my games. I played against good people, drank plenty of booz and had fun, all the while I was suffering from a terrible cold.  Chris is a Class Act and I made some good connections providing support for The Heroes of Armageddon. There is something good to be said about that.

 But since I got home, I have been laying awake in bed at night thinking about the pit in my stomach from the Presentation judging. And it affected many others. If I am losing sleep over something like this do I want to subject myself to it again? The answer is maybe or no. Chris has things figured out. The method to running a good event while absolutely NOT easy, is no secret and Brandt, Clark, Spino and Aaron from The Conflict provide lots of support. 40k was a new part of his event and it came with some pretty heavy cons that I have not encountered elsewhere. The biggest problem for The Colonial is just that. Elsewhere. The east coast is becoming a hot bed for 40k events. I am getting to the point now where instead of marking off my calendar for a couple of yearly things, I am having to choose which con to go to every month.  Some of those guys who emailed me will not be returning. Some will play WHFB instead. I am on the fence. It will come down to just how well the TOs are going to use the massive amounts of feedback they are no doubt getting to improve their mistakes.

I wish I could have given the event a gushing review but based on how I have felt since leaving, I cannot. I can say without a doubt that if I know Dave, and my opinion of Chris is warranted, they will improve. And I will return.

Hope that all makes sense!



Kevinmcd28 said...

Thanks jawa, very good review and thanks fOr the Piece on my army....check back here for my review online peeps

Psybilliah said...

Agreed on all judging points. Things just didnt add up and also seemed to stray from the original scoring sheet provided prior to the event. All in all a great event, but everyone involved would do good to listen to the feedback about the judging and make an attempt to validate the format prior to next years colonial.

Dalinair said...

those 2 beating you is a complete joke your display board is honestly the best one i have ever seen.

Fishboy said...

The lighting makes it hard to see any details on the armies themselves. That makes it hard to judge just on the video however most of those armies I have seen in person by attending several NE events and I personally don't understand the judging. Too bad I could not fit the event into the budget this year. Maybe take some stills with better lighting and do a slide show to show more of the army details.

Littleboyblues said...

I had an event I went to 2 or 3 years ago called 'The Big Waaagh!' It was in Memphis TN and was a really fun tournament against 5 great guys and a nice venue. The painting score was so atrocious that it started hate threads on every popular warhammer forum there was. There wasn't any check list at all it was one guy whom gave you a 0-50 based on his thoughts. He defended this by saying he was a professional graphic designer and knew art. Well I too am an artist by profession and didn't agree with him at all. Gamers aren't New York art collectors. I ended up winning best painted with a 40 out of 50. (80% B!) My friend painted his entire army just for the event with a display board and based and everything and he received a 12 out of 50 and said he shouldn't have even bothered. One player got a 0 because he didn't paint one tank... his friend did. That was one of those E-hatchets you were referring too as I later learned. 10ish other people got full paint scores (all be it random) and had armies done by commission painters. After the event the paint judge said he wasn't really impressed with any of the armies there. Not a good way to get future attendees at your tournament. I think TO's spend a lot of time making missions and play testing them and getting all worked out which is great, but they should spend more time working on the paint scoring. Many players lovingly paint their models and even if they're not the best, they are still proud of them. I completely understand your rant and don't think your conceded. Hell the tournament I lost sleep over because of paint I friggin won! I hope TO's take note. A good write up Jawaballs.


Melon Head said...

I was unable to attend and after hearing this and other eye witness accounts of the event I'm glad I saved my I love the video especially the close up of kevins three reavers....very nice *cough cough*, and jawa, your display board is very cool, you got me motivated to update my old board.

Jawaballs said...

I'm glad so far you guys have seen what I have to say for what it is. Thanks for the comments. But lets try to keep the comments about TOs as positive as possible. It is hard enough to run one of these things and have to muscle down feed back like the book I just wrote, but to have to defend against attacks can turn this in the wrong direction. I cant stress enough how great Chris and Dave both were. There was just a massive failing in the judging that can be easily addressed.

artstthms said...

wow... both your's and the second tyranid's presentations were the tits. sorry the judges didn't feel the same.

Kevinmcd28 said...

I cannot remember who did allt he computer pairings and added stuff up, I believe his name was Alex(?). He did an awsome job and was cool as well

The Winchester said...

Your board was awesome. I will agree to that without question. Just so everyone knows Greg Sabino and multiple others grinded out tons of terrain before the tourney. Hats off to those guys. The painting competition was judged very harshly, however I feel that is the way it should be, I would rather have hard judging than 10 people gettin really high scores from lax judging. Also, so that there was no bias, the 40k judges went and grabbed the fantasy paint judges to confirm the top 3. So I felt that was good considering they didnt have to. Look forward to seeing you guys at the grim GT.

Flekkzo said...

Have you spoken to any of the guys that ran the event about this? I seriously get the feeling that you do not want to dislike the event after all. I hope they can get good feedback and come out better next time.

You've got a very cool board. Lots of thought went into it. So presentation should be high for the board alone.

It would be interesting to see more of these armies and hear your opinions. I think that would both be interesting for a lot of people and I am sure we could learn from it too:)

Jawaballs said...

Winchester, I think I am cancelling my trip to Vegas, so I very well may be at the Grim Open! And Flek, I don't want to speak negatively about any thing. But what it really comes down to now is that there are a LOT of GTs. I think that with the bar being set so very high by events like Nova and Mechanicon, we need to start being a little more picky in our evaluations.

I won't be sharing my opinions about other armies though. I was pushing it with Ted and Bob because I know them and they know me and I know at least Ted won't punch me in the face. :)

The Brotha said...

Hey man. I have one question for you. Can a brotha get a six?

General Oadius said...

ummm...NO F'ING WAY YOU WERE #7!

There was absolutely NO way your army was inferior to the Space Sharks.

That was the most insane game board I've ever seen.

Jawaballs said...

LoL Brotha! Get the hell outa my way. I don't think I tried to move my army once without you standing in front of me.

Gredus said...

*previous post removed because I can't spell to save myself it seems*

It's posts like this Jawaballs that make me hate staying in Europe! USA always has the best tournaments!
Sounds like it was well put together and everyone there enjoyed themselves.

Jawaballs said...

It sure was Gredus. It was a nice, laid back atmosphere, but still the competition was fierce. Poor Stout Smurf was getting crushed by rock hard lists all the way to the end. Even in the last game they had to bring in a ringer because some one bailed, and that dude had a rock hard Deathwing list. The competition surprised me to say the least.

The Brotha said...

I was in your way so much because I wanted to see that AWESOME display presentation you worked so hard for and only got a 7 on. :(

Sorry that worked out that way. Your display was hands down the best there.

Jawaballs said...

Can a brotha get a... 7? It's ok, writing that post actually let me move on from that. Or maybe it is because I can finally breath through half of my nose and my head is not throbbing for the first time in 5 days...

artstthms said...

im dying to see the battle reports tho

Fishboy said...

What kind of nuts were they so I know to bring them to the NOVA (c:

Jawaballs said...

They were your mom's nutts.

Fishboy said...

Well no wonder you broke out....those were old and she got rid of them years ago hehehe. Now she just keeps my dads in her purse hehehe.

Berzerker Steve said...

Well I for one dont get to play in many GT's but now since work is on hold and my xbox went I got more time to focus on my army. Bob Evers has taught me every thing i know about painting, you might go as far as calling me his padawan learner. I think we all can learn a thing or 2 from one another when It comes to painting. each artist is different in their own way.. Please excuest the random banter, Im all Jack up on MtN Dew !

Teageltron40k said...

Sorry to hear about the way it all turned out Jawa, better luck next time. Hopefully I'll finally get to beet you at Brothers Grim?

Servvs Umbrarum said...

Sorry to hear it didn't work out for the best. I love reading your updates on your army, it gives me ideas for my own.

I agree that we all spend a lot of hard work on our army where as I would expect to get low points on my army (every model looks like a test model due to new techniques learned) but your army (and many of those on the video) are some of the best I've ever seen.

Oh, shameless bump on my blog I started. for anyone wanting a true new player respective on this hobby we all spend so much time and money on. If you could add me to the blog roll Jawa I'd appreciate it.

chaos-android said...

Woah! That tyranid army at 1:01 is tits! Did it get in the top 3?

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