Post by Kyle

As a store, Imaginary Wars has always been ‘Hobby First’ in it its gaming outlook: we’re always encouraging players to have fun with painting the models they buy to play their games with. With the events that we actively organise, we stress less on competitive elements and encourage all players to show up with fully painted armies. To help facilitate that, we even have our resident miniatures painter, Justin, on hand every Saturday afternoon to teach miniature painting techniques throughout the afternoon.


This year, we decided to wear our hobby a little more prominently on our sleeve by running a painting competition: enter Master of Pigments!


After running many different painting competitions and seeing so many ‘Best Painted’ portions of the multitude of events I’ve been to over the years, the one thing I noticed was that the same people tended to be rewarded over and over (and over) again—at times, to the point where there’s never a question as to who will win; it was more a question of which of the three “usual suspects” was going to show up. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the best entry winning, but when every participant knows they’re never going to be in the running—repeatedly and in every competition so long as the “usual suspects” show up—participation numbers start to dwindle. And participation is the life blood of hobby stores.

Understandably, I’ve had some trepidation about running an in-store painting competition—or rather I’ve always worried about having more than a handful of entries. When mentioning my concerns, the possible solution always offered was to cordon off the top-tier painters into their own category or to make past winners judges (and thus disallow them from participating). But I wasn’t sure ostracizing potential participants would do much to stave off any threat of dwindling participation levels.

And that’s where my brain has been stuck the last couple years. Until this year.

This year, I decided to not bother with any kind of regimented judging or judging criteria. Instead, we would just have people vote for the best model by secret ballot. And the voting would be open to the competitors and anyone who came through the doors that wished to vote! We also decided to keep the categories pretty general and decide at the end of the competition if any tweaking needed to be done.

To encourage as many people as possible to enter a model, we made the first entry free and had a scaling entry fee to discourage any people who might try “buckshot” their chances of winning by entering several models into each category. Here’s how the competition rules ended up looking:


We gave people a week to drop their models off at the store; and, like all homework assignments, ninety percent were handed in on the deadline day. (But we expected that!) And then we allowed voting to happen over the course of a week in hopes of getting as many people in to vote as possible. Though not as immediate as getting people to drop off their models and announce a winner an hour later, I think the staggered approach we took paid off: we ended up getting twenty-six people entering the competition with a total of forty-five entries in our first outing!

With Master of Pigments we were incredibly pleased with the level of participation, the quality of the entries, the winning models—everything! What really pleased me was that EVERY model got one or more votes. Sure that doesn’t mean each entrant was a potential front runner; but it’s nice to know that if you’re pleased with a model you just painted, chances are someone else thinks it’s pretty awesome too. Without a doubt, there’ll be another Master of Pigments competition next year—so get painting!

And without further ado, here are all the entries for our first Master of Pigments Painting Competition:


Winner – Layne Strandquist


Winner – Keith Reidy


Winner – Howard Nason


Winner – Igor Pavlovskii


Winner – Scott Smith

















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