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Author Topic: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...  (Read 14175 times)

Offline Captain Blood

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Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« on: May 22, 2011, 07:23:46 PM »
I thought - now that LPL5 is finished Ė Iíd pull together some thoughts on the things that seem to make a difference between winning and losing.

This presupposes youíre interested in winning. And I appreciate a lot of people arenít. If you like to take part just for the fun of it, or to make a dent in your lead mountain, feel free to ignore my musings.

If however, you have an old-fashioned competitive streak, then the following observations might prove useful when the next LPL comes roundÖ  ;)

There are exceptions to every rule of course, but my observations over 5 seasons as competitor and organiser lead me to believe the following are generally trueÖ


Golden Rule 1. Donít enter a fuzzy pic

People are fond of pointing out the LPL is supposed to be a painting competition, not a photography competition.
True.
But short of all going round to each othersí houses to inspect the miniatures, we rely on photography to present our figures on the web. So why not teach yourself to compose and shoot a decent picture? It doesnít require an expensive camera, a light box, gizmos and training. My past LPL entries were mostly shot with a basic digital camera under natural daylight from a window.
The basic problem is that if you canít get a shot in which your figures are at least in focus, youíre going to be very lucky to get anyone to vote for you.
So practice. Itís not easy I admit. I shoot 30 or 40 pictures just to get to one really good, sharp image where everything is just right.
Is this time-consuming? You bet.
Do you have better things to do with your life? Almost certainly.
Will you win a match in the LPL with an out of focus picture? Not a chance.

 
Golden Rule 2. Crop. Crop. Then crop again.

If you have a PC and a digital camera, you almost certainly already have some kind of picture editing software, because almost all PCs and cameras come with it. Teach yourself how to crop a picture using this software. Itís very easy and intuitive.
Thereís really no excuse for a picture with 5 tiny little figures marooned in a vast expanse of carpet or tabletop. The voters want to see your handiwork Ė not your wallpaper, curtains or tablecloth.
Itís highly unlikely youíll be able to take exactly the picture you want Ė so crop away to get to the picture you need. Crop in as close to your subject as possible. Then resize your picture.

 
Golden Rule 3. Play to the preferences of the electorate.

As a keen student of LPLs 1 Ė 5, I can tell you quite categorically that there are some themes and genres which unfailingly attract support. Not because of the painting or photography, but purely because of the subject matter.
Iím not saying this is right or fair Ė Iím just telling you itís the way it is. Darkest Africa and Back of Beyond are invariably gold-plated. Pulp, Colonial and Victoriana too, to a slightly lesser extent - but still strongly favoured by the LAF hardcore (the people that generally take the time to vote). These particular Ďperiodsí are LAFs heartland, and an entry in one of these genres is nearly always worth a hatful of extra votes, other things being more or less equal.

 
Golden Rule 4. There are some killer figure ranges out there Ė use them.

Beauty in wargames figures is, as we all know, in the eye of the beholder. One manís small blobs of misshapen lead are another manís cherished sculpts.
However... there are a few sculptors / ranges out there, almost universally celebrated as excellentÖ Anything by Copplestone for instance. Most things by Mike Owen (especially Thrilling Tales). Many things by the Perrys and by Bob Murch.
Of course not absolutely everybody loves these figures Ė Iím not a huge fan of Pulp Figures, for instance. But the important thing is that most people here at LAF are.
So an entry using the work of these sculptors is, once again, worth another hatful of extra votes when up against the output of any number of other manufacturers or sculptors. You can certainly give yourself an extra edge just by picking figures that almost everybody likes.

 
Golden Rule 5. Donít use crappy figures Ė they will nearly always lose.

It almost goes without saying that the converse is also true. If your entry uses manifestly poor quality figures, you are greatly reducing your chances of success. You might adore those 1970's Hinchliffe figures, finding them naÔve and charming. Unfortunately, compared to the standard of whatís available these days, most of your voters will simply think they look sh*t.
There were a couple of examples in LPL5 where excellently painted entries of rather clunky old figures fell victim to not-so-well painted entries of much better sculpts.
Whatever anyone might say, people donít vote on painting alone... Consciously or otherwise, many other factors are playing out in every decision on every match. The subject. The theme. The story told by the entry. The composition. The quality of the picture. The cropping and framing. And the quality and make of the figures...
They like the figures, they vote for the figures. They donít Ė they wonít.

 
Golden Rule 6. Beware the GW factor.

The world of wargaming is divided in roughly equal proportions between those who entered Ďthe hobbyí via Games Workshop, and those who didnít.
Amongst both sections of this population (including, weirdly, many ex-GW enthusiasts) there is, letís say, a well-documented and sometimes irrational degree of antipathy towards Games Workshop and its products. Bordering on hatred.
So itís sometimes said that out-and-out GW based entries (40K Space Marines and the like) always fare bady in the LPL. I donít think this is actually the case. Weíve seen well painted GW figures win plenty of matches.
But the fact that rather a lot of people have a deep-seated dislike of GW products, means that an averagely painted and photographed GW-based entry will lose almost every time against an equally averagely painted entry using almost any other brand of figures.
Again, Iím not saying itís right, Iím not saying itís fair Ė Iím just saying itís what happens.

 
Golden Rule 7. Shiny figures always bomb.

You may be one of those whimsical souls who are fond of gloss varnish and the Ďold-fashioned toy soldierí look. Unfortunately, the other 98% of the wargaming public do not share your enthusiasm. In fact, they hate shiny figures with a passion. As a general rule, you may as well cut your own throat as hope to win with a high gloss entry.
Much more problematic are those unfortunates whose nicely matt-varnished entries somehow manage to come out shiny in their photographs.
The culprit is usually flash photography, and all I can say is: avoid using a flash at all costs. It generally leads to pictures which are yellowy and over-exposed. And it makes your figures look shiny. Use natural daylight or a daylight bulb in a big lamp. Either that, or your matt varnish isnít as matt as you think it is...
I think there may even be a correlation between mattness and votes. The flatter matt the figure, the better those entries seem to do.
But that may just be my imagination  ;)

 
Golden Rule 8. 28mm trumps all other scales.

You may not agree that 28mm is Godís Own Scale, but itís safe to say thatís the majority view here on LAF. 28mm is the true scale of lead adventure gaming Ė which is not the same as mainstream wargaming.
For one thing, you just canít see as much on a 6mm or even a 20mm figure as on a 28mm miniature. And they generally have a lot less character. So kudos to the rare winners who have triumphed with 15mm or smaller scale entries - you already know youíre putting yourself at a disadvantage.
On a similar note, a team of 28mm figures almost always trumps a team of micro armour, FoW vehicles, micro-scale spacefleets, and so on. Unless the vehicle / equipment team is spectacularly well done (and the figure-based team isnít), people will nearly always vote for figures over hardware.

 
Golden Rule 9. Always use a backdrop Ė even if itís a blank sheet of paper.

Well, I wonít deny there have been one or two behind-the-scenes grumbles at the degree of apparent Ďphotoshoppingí of backdrops in a few LPL5 entries. And thereís always an argument about the advantages of a scenic background with terrain versus a clinical blue or white background. (I think there are pros and cons to both approaches, and I use both as the mood takes me).
What I can categorically tell you, is that no-backdrop-at-all equals a high likelihood of failure.
It doesnít matter how well painted your figures are Ė photographing them on your crumb-littered kitchen table with your dirty coffee mug, overflowing ashtray and 1970ís floral print curtains in the background, is doing your painting a serious disservice.
Do this, and youíre almost certainly going to lose your match. Unless of course your opponent has even worse curtains than you do.


Golden Rule 10. Repeat entries rapidly lose their shine.

The LPL is a slog. Itís a challenge. Thatís the whole point. Not everyone can keep up the pace, for all sorts of perfectly good reasons. Thereís nothing in the rules to discourage repeat entries from one week to the next. And truthfully, if you were seriously interested in winning, you wouldnít resort to repeat entries anyway. But just for the record, what I observe is this: A well-painted repeat entry can usually win two successive rounds. Beyond that, people tire rapidly of seeing the same old thing week after week and they start voting it down Ė yes, even against manifestly inferior opposition.
A poor-to-averagely painted repeat entry meanwhile, doesnít normally stand a chance against the novelty of a newly entered team even in its second week.


Bonus Rule - sex sells  :-*

Thereís little doubt that the overwhelmingly male community of wargamers find miniatures of girls (especially weapon-toting girls without many clothes) strangely alluring, if not downright titillating. A bevy of well-painted babes in miniature is usually a winning formula - or at least guaranteed to please enough to attract a clutch of extra votes. You might think this disgusting, weird, or downright sadÖ But never forget: sex sells. Yes, even in 28mm!

So there you go. This is not an exhaustive list. It may not even be completely correct. But I think it's broadly sound advice  ;)

Offline Hammers

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2011, 07:39:47 PM »
Interesting thread, Blood. A good effort to cappture the soul of LPL and, in fact. LAF.

I would however object to rule #4, I think there have been lesser know brands of good minis which  pull votes due to that very factor. GameZone is a good example.

Also I'd like to add a 'rule'. All other things equal, composition which tells a story often does better than one which doesn't.

Offline Ray Rivers

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2011, 07:49:00 PM »
Indeed, I think we have seen the bar raised in this LPL towards a nice tight composition which tells a bit of a story, at least in the bonus rounds.

Many, many of the photos I remember directly reflect that.

Offline Fire Broadside!

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2011, 07:55:18 PM »
Oh, this is neat! I was thinking of doing the exact same thing on my blog, and you covered basically all my points (except for the story aspect mentioned by Hammers). Good one!
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Online Plynkes

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2011, 08:02:06 PM »
I can't say I've ever noticed any bias towards Colonial or Darkest Africa in the voting. Always seems to me that Sci-Fi is the favoured son.
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Offline Pil

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2011, 08:24:49 PM »
I'm usually quite vocal about my love for SF or post-apocalyptic entries so there may be a bit of an apparent bias there. Other than that I agree with most of the points and in the end everyone has a little set of preferences of their own. Other than that I really like winning matches but not to the point where I have to paint other models than I want to paint, so I often stick with my SF, PA or fantasy entries  :)
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Let me see the banners fly
Before the storm begins

Offline Hammers

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2011, 08:54:14 PM »
I also like to add that I for one hopes no one takes the programmatic approach to win the LPL. With a slight exception for bonus rounds I, for one, paint what I like myself. I would also lose interest in a LPL where all entries are too conform. I like being surprised. :)

Offline Captain Blood

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2011, 09:01:45 PM »
Also I'd like to add a 'rule'. All other things equal, composition which tells a story often does better than one which doesn't.

I'd absolutely go along with that, Peder. Storytelling can be a powerful factor.

Like I say, it's not an exhaustive list. There are probably 101 factors at play - like entries with individual characters seem to do better than entries with rank and file troops. That traditional 'periods', notably Napoleonic, don't usually seem to find favour... and so on...

Just my opinions, based on what I've seen... Take them or leave them. Most of it is just good practice really, like getting your entry in focus, using a backdrop, and using good quality figures...

Offline syrinx0

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2011, 09:23:12 PM »
I would say your observations are spot on.  Fuzzy shots & poor photo editing really lowers your potential.  GW figures on this board are at a bit of a disadvantage unless they are fantasticly painted and or the earlier sculpts that bring back good memories.  :)

Every now and then though you need to paint something just for fun though it probably won't win, say like some Zardoz figs.  :D  I think it's almost a requirement to have a buffer of entries ready at the start if you want to keep entering new teams.  Maybe we can announce the next contest themes in December? :)
2023: B:77; P:27;

Offline Svennn

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2011, 09:41:30 PM »
Golden Rule 5 immediately reminded me of Budsdas Dixon Cowboys. I think they cost him dearly.

All very good and sound pointers but only highlight the change from a delightful relaxed bit of fun towards more of a CMON affair to me.

Its a great competition and it is wonderful to see so many painters grow as it progresses year after year, producing endless supplies of inspiring stuff. I just hope it does not become something many will feel above their level.
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Offline Blue in vt

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2011, 10:00:46 PM »
All very interesting thoughts Richard...thanks for taking the time to lay they out so clearly.  I agree on all most all of them...I certainly felt the anti-GW sting a couple of time...at least I thought so  o_o...though I may broaden it to say there is a slight anti-fantasy bias...but maybe that is covered by your Playing to the electorate piece.

Of course my major failing was the lack of scene in my photos...thanks to the excellent instructions found on this site I feel like I was able to take decent pictures of my figures...but not being much of a gamer at the moment I have no scenery at my disposal...something that I hope to change in the near future!  Of course having the pieces of terrain and using them to construct a scene that tells a story are two different difficult tasks.  I will be doing a lot of thinking about his over the next few months.

Anytway I think post game analysis of this type is very valuable...thanks again.

Blue
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Offline Bugsda

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 12:24:17 AM »
Right, noted. Plenty of African birds with their tits out and no Dixon cowboys, next year I'll be sorted  ;)
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Offline Driscoles

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2011, 05:41:27 AM »
Next time I will take part again ( hopefully ).

These advices are golden and perfectly fit into my master plan.

Besides...if you google "10 golden rules" you find lots of other things to get through life with a smile  ;)

, ,

Offline MadMŲ

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2011, 05:50:29 AM »
Dear Captain Blood you are 100% right.
This is a forum were the age of Napoleon is filed under "other adventures". ;)
My personal biggest concern is the use of Photoshop or similar programs.
I had once one of my photos edited by a professional graphics artist. A friend of mine. Well, even mistakes in painting were corrected.
To sum up:
Choice of miniatures, subject, photographic skill and Photoshop work makes about 50+% of success in the LPL ;)

Offline NurgleHH

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Re: Thoughts on how to succeed in the LPL...
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2011, 06:14:40 AM »
Sometimes I think in this round not only the painting Quality was the reason for voting. I missed the close-ups like prof. Witchheimer made it (and some other guys later in the contest). In the next round hopefully one rule is to post close-ups.
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