Thursday, November 15, 2012

So you wanna be a tournament player? The cost to compete

Glory.  The sweet taste of it is enough to drive men to the bitter brink of sanity.  To stand over your enemies victorious . . . . heroes are born in such ways.

But how much does it really cost to compete?  If you going to run with the bulls, you gotta be able to keep up.  Get out your wallets, kiddies, cause this ain't gonna be cheap. 

Lets's take 2 fairly big tournaments, Adepticon, and Feast of Blades

For the purposes of this discussion, we are going to make a few assumptions.

1. You have a painted army.  This may sound like common sense, but lots of players have their 'fun army' or 'fluffy' army as its come to be know, and their no holds barred WAAC army, and rarely the twain shall meet.  An army can costs hundreds of dollars, much much more if you pay someone to assemble it and paint it for you.  And lots not even get into if the army doubles as your team play army or painting competition army.  So for sake of argument, let's just say you have an army.

2.  Let's also assume you are going for the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD trip, ie, enough to have a good time, not scrimp, but not spend lavishly either.  So, that being said, what do you need?

You need a way to get there (bus fare, a plane ticket, gas $$$, etc)
You need somewhere to stay, probably a hotel
You need money to participate (fees ,events, games, etc)
You need to eat

Of course there are exceptions to the rule.  You mommy might pack you PB and J for 3 days and you might crash on a friends couch, or live in town, etc.  However, let's assume for sake of this article you don't.   You live out of town, you came to play, and you plan to spend a little dough. 

Now, let's get down to brass tax . . . how much for the ape, err . . . trip.

Because I live in Raleigh NC, which is about as East Coast as you get, let's use that as a launching off point.  Plug in your own data accordingly.

Item 1.  Travel

Since this is the modern age, I'm going to take a plane to get there.  Yes, I could cram myself into a car with a few other guys and save on gas $$$ while sniffing their farts for two days, but I'm going to save a little pride and sniff a strangers farts at 20,000 feet up instead.  So, how much?

They say airfare is more affordable than ever these days . . . so is it?

Okay, using American Airlines, looks like I can go round trip, to and from the airport for about $265 bucks.  That price includes tax.  Of course, I'm going to have to check a bag, which is another $25.  After all I have my army bag and then I have a small carry on with (let's hope) a change of clothes and some soap at least.  I suppose you could get creative, dress in 6 layers and just use those clothes for the whole weekend, but since that's gross, let's save your pride and say you have 1 carry on and your 'army transport' to check.

Total so far:  $290

You've also got to get to an from the airport.  Yes, you could certainly have a friend drop you off and pick you up.  Let's assume you do that for your IN TOWN airport ride.  It'll save you money on parking for sure.  However, once you get there, you are going to have to either rent a car (let's NOT do that, after all, hotels are islands unto themselves) or take a cab from the airport to the hotel.  Let's assume the cab ride costs you $30 bucks, which is reasonable.

Total so far:  $320

Okay, plane, check, cab, check, but what about the hotel?  A man's gotta have somewhere to rest his head after a long day of battle.  So far the prices have been consummate, but now they start to diverge.  .  

For Adepticon, the primary hotel is ALREADY FULL!  They do have a secondary hotel.  Four days w/tax for a room comes to $446 bucks.  The other kick in the pants is now you have to get to and from the convention center from YOUR hotel.  It's only .7 miles away, but you do have an army to transport.  Do you want to lug all that almost a mile through the windy city in April, when it will STILL be cold?  Probably not.  Let's assume you are going to take a cab TO and FROM the hotel each day, for $10 bucks a pop.  Over 4 days that's $80 bucks.  Yikes.

For FoB, it's a little better.  The hotel for the event still has availability, it's only a three day event, and it's cheaper on the room.  Three days there are only $306.

On a side note you COULD only go one or two days to either event, and save some $$$ on the room, but I'm assuming you came to play, so you're staying for the duration.

Total so far:  $846 (Adepticon), $626 (FoB)

Okay, our wallet is starting to feel that squeeze, but the big stuff is out of the way, fortunately.  Let's talk about the commodities.

Firstly, if you go to play then you have to pay to stay.  Try saying that three times fast.  Each event has different pricing.  For Adepticon, it's free to attend, but $45 to participate in, well, anything.  To compete in a tournament it ranges depending on the event, but the 40k GT Open is $35.  Now, it's a four day event, and the GT open is only 2 days of the event, and only one if I don't make it to the second day.  Let's assume you've got a little down time at the event.  Maybe on your off days (Saturday/Sunday) or even Friday if you don't win on Thursday.  Adepticon has TONS of stuff to do . . but the kick is a lot of it costs.  Pay to play games range from $5 bucks up to $15.  Let's give you a mix and say you play one $15 dollar event and 2 $5ers.  That's $25 total.  That brings your total event fees at Adepticon to about $105.  Think of it like seeing 8 movies back to back at the local cineplex.

For FoB on the other hand, it's simple.  $75 bucks gives you a weekend pass, which covers all costs, including your GT fee. 

Total so far:  $951 (Adepticon), $701 (FoB)

Okay, we're done now, right?  Wrong!!!  A man's gotta eat!  You gotta keep up yer' strength to help vanquish your opponent.  Let's assume both hotels have continental breakfast (or you bring a box of poptarts and ration them out over 4 days . .  Poptarts now come 8 to a box!  That's 25% more pop!   Did you know?)  You still need to do lunch and dinner.  Let's assume you do lunch and dinner every day of the tournie, except the last day, where you just do lunch on your way to the airport.  You can probably get by on $10 - $15 bucks a meal.  I'm going to assume $15, because you are going to be limited to shops within walking range of the hotel or even worse, inside the hotel, and you might want a mid day snack, bottle of water, can of soda, or the like.  So basically $30 bucks a day, and $15 on the final day. 

Total so far:  $1056 (Adepticon), $776 (FoB)

Okay, NOW are we done . . . almost.  Both these events have vendors.  Do you mean to tell me you are going to spend 3 days geeking out and not buy anything?  What's your Will save, +14?  I dunno think so.  You are GOING to buy something.  The only question is how much.

Also, half the fun of GT's is camaraderie, which is Latin for beer.  You mean to say you aren't going to go get a beer with Goatboy or Spikeybits if asked?  OF COURSE YOU ARE, YOU GUTLESS LITTLE LACKEY!  It's called peer pressure, and guess what, you're going to give in.  Why?  Because these people accept you.  GT's are the closest things gamers get to a pilgrimage.  

Let's lump both of these together into a joint account and call it 'petty cash'.  $ to throw around on drinks, dice, books, t-shirts, insert your crack of choice here.

Total so far (and final!!):  $1106 (Adepticon), $826 (FoB).

So . . . there is is, black and blue and red all over.  The cost to compete.  Was it as expensive as you thought, or worse?

Bear in mind this article is NOT intended to be a jibe at GT's.  Quite the opposite in fact.  If you are going to start budgeting, just save about $40 bucks a week and you too can be a tournie player.  The guys who go to these are card carrying members of an elite club, and we all know that we really DO want to be at the cool kids table.  However, for most of us GT's just aren't a reality we can face, what with the average one costing about $1000 bucks!

Of course there are ways to save at the pump.  Sharing a room, packing snacks vs. buying meals, being thrify with vendors, walking to the hotel from the OTHER hotel . . . all of this will save you $$$, hundreds maybe, but you have to budget your time vs. your money, in other words, value.  Is it worth it, to you, to walk vs ride, or sleep in privacy vs. listen to another man snore all night, etc.

The choice is yours. 

Caleb, WMG

Summary Table

Feast of Blades

April 18-21st 2013
October 26-28th

Chicago, IL
Denver Colorado

attending badge cost
$75.00 Includes tourney and wknd badge

tournament cost

other events
$25.00 (15+10) $0.00

petty cash

Hotel room
$446.22 Primary hotel booked $306.38 (89/night plus tax)

$105.00 7 meals at 15 each $75.00 5 meals at 15 each

$290.60 (25 for checked bag) $290.60

Cab fare, to and from airport
$30.00 from hotel to airport $30.00 from hotel to airport

Cab fare, to and from hotel, daily
$80.00 10 each trip, 2 trips per day $0.00

Totals $1,106.82

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Modeling for Advantage VS Positioning for Advantage

Greetings fellow wargamers!

Ran into an interesting situation in a game with a friend the other day and thought I might run it by the community to see if other folks had every run into something similiar.

So as nasty as I think Genestealers are in close combat, they have met their match many times before:  berserkers on the charge, grey knights basically all day long, plague marines, and now, Castellan Crowe!

Rather than getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just sum it up for you.  Crowe is s GK special character that can never be part of another unit.  He fights alone.  He isn't an IC, he's just a solo HQ choice.  It's a odd place to be as a named character.  I can attest to this using figures like the Doom of Malan'tai on a semi regular basis, which will never know the benefit of being a member of a brood!

So, Crowe always fights along.

In the course of our game, my genestealers charged Crowe.  I moved my stealers up and surrounded him to the best of my ability.

Here is where it gets tricky.  Crowe has a special power (or three), but one in particular that is pretty nasty in close combat.  Without having the codex in front of me, it's something along the lines of each model in base to base with him take an additional hit at Initiative 8 or something.  Being armed with a force weapon, this can be devastating to any squad/brood.

The question came up whether or not my genestealers were modeled for advantage.

In close combat, as the rule goes, you must attempt to get as many models in base to base contact as possible with your target.  My stealers were facing Crowe and due to how the models are made (all gangly arms and slashing claws and such) are hard to get into base to base with pretty much anybody.  That being said, I positioned about 3 figures around him and figured that was about the best it was going to get.

My opponent on the other hand pointed out that if I turned the models around, I would be able to fit more models in base to base with Crowe.

My only real response to this was it seemed kinda silly to me, for my stealers to be facing away.

Of course the base is really just a representation of the space occupied by the model.  Models are dynamically posed because it looks cool, its visually aesthetic . ..  it's badass!  A bloodthirster wouldn't be nearly as intimidating if his axe was clipped to his back, his wings folded up against his body and his arms crossed.  But you'd be able to get him into base to base with more models.

Furthermore during the other phases of the game, namely shooting, models like bloodthirsters and genestealers and such are a clear disadvantage, because their extra big, flailing limbs and wings and such can be shot at.  They are considered part of the model, and moreover a targetable part of the model.

So this raises lot of ?'s in my mind.

Is a figure modeled for advantage when they're are assembled the way the rules/box/blister shows you to without conversion/modification in any way?

Are figures with bigger/gangly/flailing limbs at a distinct disadvantage (meta wise) because they are easier to hit in the shooting phase but then they do the about face during the assault phase?

In your games, tournament and friendly, did you run into a similiar situation where an opponent insisted you position your figures for their advantage in close combat?

To be fair, the rules DO state that you must move your figures so that as many of them are in base to base as possible, but does this imply you should play the hokey pokey to get every last base touching so that Crowe can have his force weaponed way with them?

Where does the meta meet the spirit of the game?

Is it just me?  Am I naive because I don't play in tournament?  Where does the meta meet the road?

Chime in!


Caleb, WMG

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Whatever happened to the Tarrasque project? On learning from your mistakes and pressing forward!

Upon seeing the above your first question should be 'what the f&^% is this s*&^?' to which my answer would be . . . hundreds of dollars worth of learning from your mistakes.

I like to think of myself as a guy who learns from his mistakes.  Certainly in regards to money and when dealing with the ladies, but also in regards to modeling  There's something to be said for the old adage 'Don't know it til you've tried it.' and let me tell you.  I tried it.

 So about, oh, I don't know, let's say 8 months ago, I set out on a mission.  I have been training my assistant Nick to work beside me in the studio.  I'd build a model, get a feel for how to do it and then show him how.  Nick was brilliant in that he could pick up what I was putting down and literally pick up where I left off.  He's that kinda talent.  Mind you neither of us are sculptors, full well, but Nick is spades beyond my ability.

So, me being the money hungry and egotistical creature that I am got the idea to build something big.  I figured big details were easier to sculpt then small.  We're been working on refining techniques for months, so the time was ready to try an original sculpt.  Nick wasn't strong with small detail, so I figured 'go big or go home!'.  So that's what we did.  And my first project to fall under this adage?

Why a tarrasque of course!  The legendary beast of . .  . legend.  The French creature with the head of a lion, the body of a . . . turtle, or armadillo, or something like that.  Anyway, nothing like the D&D version, that's for sure.  Not wishing to risk copyright infringement, we worked up a few concept sketches.  We came up with this lion leaded standing dragon with an armored shell not unlike an ankylosaurus.  I must say, overall I was pleased with the design and greenlit Nick to go ahead and begin on a prototype.

This is where things went wrong.

We roughed out the model in clay, in an attempt to save money on filler material.  A model this size in greenstuff would cost hundreds.  In grey stuff it would have cost less but me being the spendthift that I am figured 'hey, why not use clay.  It's  cheap and dirt, and maleable.'  So we did.

Problem with clay is, once dry it turns brittle.  A few months is more than enough time to dry out.

We covered the clay manakin in a greystuff layer of skin and then set about sculpting the major details in the 2 part epoxy.  Seemed like a good plan to me.  Nick assured me the figure out fit together.  It was looking lanky, but I knew Nick was doing his best, so I went with it.

We settled on a scaly skin pattern for the majority of the body.  Scales are the sort of thing that doing them right can take hours upon hours upon hours.  So to make a long story short, maybe 40-60 hours later, the entire model was scaled.

At minimum wage in NC, this means I spent anywhere between $300 or up to $450 bucks on labor to have Nick build this puppy.  Let's say another 50 in raw materials and the like.  This project was getting expensive, and I was smart enough to know the mold would cost hundreds as well.

Not a big deal, I told myself.  I can make it back selling a few of these for 1-200 bucks each (in my mind) and make it back in no time.

Problem is the bigger the model, the harder they are to sell.  Johnny Gamer can buy a reaper figure for $6.99 on lunch money, or a tank for $50 bucks on a few nights pay at the local gas n'go.  But a large figure like the Colossal Red Dragon from a few years back?  Those went for about $100 bucks each and did you notice WOTC doesn't make them anymore?  No market!  How many reaver's have you really seen in your life?  Not on a blog, in person.  2?  3?  Now how many Space Marine Tanks have you seen?  Hundreds?  More?  Price matters.

Companies like CMON sell their own figures of similar scale and excellent detail in the 4-500 range, but those are master made and are unbelievable to behold.  I figured 'well, I'll make on that's a fraction as nice for a fraction of the price.  Figures for the everyday man!'

So, Nick had done his work and the figure was 'done' around January or so.  Now it was time for a test run to make sure it all fit together.

WHY THE HELL I DIDN'T DO THIS BACK IN THE FALL WHEN THE PROJECT BEGAN I HAVE NO IDEA.   My only defense is my wife decided it was time to start trying to get pregnant back then and my mind must have turned to mush overnight.   I mean, we had been talking about it for a while, but that was the month we actually went OFF birth control, and without understanding the concept of ovulation, I was 100% sure we'd be pregnant later that week.  Obviously, I am an idiot because 6 months later, no baby to speak of in sight  More on that in another post . . . maybe .  .

To make a long story a little bit longer, after fitting the pieces together (or at least attempting to) wouldn't you know it, they didn't quite fit right.  On top of that, drilling the pieces for pinning was a mistake, because the claw was so brittle they started crumbling before my eyes like the Roman pantheon in a Discovery channel montage.  It was frustrating, embarrassing, humiliating, insert other negative gerunds here. . . .

In 'The Sun Also Rises' a rich man is asked how he went broke.  Hemingway wrote 'Gradually, and then Suddenly'.  That's sort of how I felt about this model.  It failed gradually, and then suddenly it was just over.

Looking back, like most things in life, there are many things I would do differently.  Obviously, don't skimp on the materials.  Secondly, don't bite off more than you can chew, walk before you run, etc.

Over the past year, working on projects like this, I've learned a lot about myself as a hobbyist.  I LOVE building, but I've been criticized for slopping on the glue.  Got to get better at that.  I don't love painting, but I want to get better at that too.  So I want to get better.  That's a good start.

Mostly I've learned that you can't please everybody.  In fact, some days it's hard to please anybody.

The world is so full of hate and critical views that it's easy to fell dejected some days.  Truth is, you have too ask yourself who your doing this for.

If I was just doing this for myself, then I wouldn't blog at all.  I'd build my own models, and be satisfied with that.  No one would judge me and I'd not have to weed through spiteful comments on my blog from time to time.  But the reality is it's easier to take down than build up.

This project  took months to build, ultimately failed, but even if it had succeeded, there is a very good chance a 14 year old middle class child somewhere in the mid-west would have seen the blog post, seen the pics, typed 'meh' or 'first' in response, and then unceremoniously moved on to the next sparkly gem that caught their eye, whether that was a new video game or a song or an app, or maybe even 'gasp' a girl.

Tyranids call themsevles the Great Devourer, but the truth is mankind is the great devourer.  We chew up things and spit them out, processing the world and all it has to offer so fast we rarely stop to appreciate anything anymore.

At dinner last night my wife and I had some wine.  Like any couple on a budget that also enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, we would like to enjoy fifteen dollars bottles of vino, but usually settle of the six dollar bottle and tell ourselves it'll taste just as good.  But last night, sipping my wine, I noticed how bad it was.  Not just bad, but awful.

I realized my taste buds had grown over the years.  I could single out certain tastes and flavors, and I had a profile I was looking for when enjoying wine.  And this wine, this poor five dollar bottle of crap wine, had none of them.

I wanted more from my wine.  And this transpires to other aspects of life.  I want more from my life.  I want more from my time, and I want more from my hobby.

So that leads me back to who I do this for.  Who is this blog for?

Well, originally it was for me.  It was a place to post my work in hopes of gaining a loyal following of regular clients.  But over the last few months I've noticed my sales go down down down.  So either I'm not very good at this, I don't have the time or money to dedicate to it, or maybe, just maybe, this blog isn't about me anymore.

It's about us, as a community.  It's about giving something back, sharing interests, swapping stories, and sharing pitfals.  Celebrating our mistakes and rejoicing in our triumphs.

Now don't get me wrong.  Money would be good.  We like that money.  Please send more of that yummy money.  But for those just reading this on a lunch break, with nothing else to do but count minutes on the clock til the end of the day, this blog's for you. 

 If you are going to call yourself a conversion artist, a businessman, an artist, or even just a blogger, prepare to be scrutinized.  Grow a thick skin.  You WILL be criticized.

But after that, stand tall, dust yourself off, and get back to the business of living your life.  Or in my case, the business of become a career hobbyist.

So, that all being said, my name is Caleb Dillon and I am conversion artist for hire.  I put my mini's where my mouth is, esp. my failures.

If you are interested in setting up a commission, consigning models through ebay, or even just shooting the breeze, send me a line at

Until next time, happy wargaming!