The anticipation leading up to Games Workshop’s Everchosen event has come and gone, and I must say it was quite the spectacle! I, like many others, was thrilled at the prospect of an international event anyone could enter in the hopes of earning the much sought-after Slayer of Kings. For those unaware, the competition would select the best painted miniature entries from each Games Workshop store or approved independent retailer based on popular vote, and submit that winning entry’s photograph to Games Workshop, who would then publish a shortlist to be voted on. The top three of that list would be flown to Nottingham and awarded prizes!
Events like this are always hit-or-miss for me, and I’m hoping to elaborate why in this post without coming off as bitter or resentful, because I am certainly neither of those things. Overall I would rate the event as a smashing success. There are many, many excellent qualities about these events; only sometimes do they leave a strange taste in my mouth after it’s all said and done. And while some may discredit my ramblings as that of a sore loser, I just want to mention that I earned a 1st place spot for the Open category, and have won Armies on Parade and Inner Circle placements in the past. This is taking into account both sides of the coin, and not a knee-jerk reaction to an unfavorable placement. I’ll attempt to break down my thoughts on the matter and provide some semblance of objectivity in my assessment! But it’s obviously an opinion piece — I’d love to hear what you think, too!
Starting off with the good qualities of these types of events is a must, because in the end they are fantastic community initiatives and do so much for those who take part in the hobby. Everchosen, Golden Daemon, Armies on Parade, local competitions — they’re all engaging opportunities for the community to come together and share in our passion for little plastic people. No matter how it comes off sounding in what I end up writing, I will be adamant in saying that all types of these major events are a good thing, and even if nothing changed, I would heartily support each one of them — and you should, too.
Everchosen, in particular, is an event aimed at the mastery of painting. It set parameters to create an objectively level playing field for all entrants to submit their best work to be judged with the possibility of earning the coveted sword trophy and bragging rights to claim you are literally the best in the world. Crazy stuff! For the community, this is a perfect way to engage all participants in the hobby and allow them the chance to compete, no matter where you were from. Golden Daemon contests were often relegated to the UK, and required extensive travel and preparation to submit at very specific events. Now, a kid from Waxahachie Texas that would never be able to fly overseas could show the world his award-winning entry if he possessed the artistic ability to hang with the big boys and girls. This change is remarkable, because it does open up competitions to the whole world, where we can (potentially) stop seeing repeats of the “usual subjects” who are able to make it to Golden Daemon each year. I have an almost foolish optimism that this will be the case, and we will see a more varied entry base of talented artists, but deep down I have a feeling it won’t change much in the way of major contenders. Regardless, the opportunity at an even playing field afforded to all entrants is the resultant good in introducing Everchosen. In theory, anyone has an equal chance of winning — and for that I am happy.
Because of this equal-opportunity situation, I feel it does a lot for the average painter to feel like they should compete. Because, even if they have no real aspirations of competing at the international level, they have a fairly decent chance at landing a top three spot at their local GW, earning a certificate and moderate acclaim. This was my situation, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to compete with the likes of these guys given the amount of time I currently have to devote to painting. It pushed me to attempt non-metallic-metal (NMM) for the first time on my Ogre, and really devote an amount of time on a single model where I would normally paint an entire unit of miniatures. So, too, would I expect other painters across the world to push themselves for the sake of competition. I wanted to try my best, given my time constraints, and see how I stacked up. To me, that’s fun. That’s part of the hobby, pushing your limits incrementally to better yourself among your peers, and join the camaraderie during the actual event in discussing the ordeal we each went through to get to that point. It’s as much a social experience as it is a personal journey.
To try my best, compete with equally talented artists, and generally spend a day with hobbyists chatting about painting and all things Warhammer would be a win in my book. The event afforded me these opportunities, and as a result was a solid experience.
Everchosen offered so much more in the way of the hobby than just showcasing or improving personal painting expertise, of course. It brought people together! Literally and figuratively. For a few months, people posted their content using the #everchosen hashtag, drawing a movement on social media that intermingled hobbyists that may not have interacted otherwise. I know I browsed the tag and found a fair few social media accounts to follow — and not just the top tier painters. I was able to find those middle-of-the-road accounts that I treasure for being a true cutaway section of the community. As an aside, I find it important to not just follow the elite painters on social media, because that’s often just a window into sterile artifice. A carefully curated advertisement into how good they are. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but I don’t want that to be my sole source of hobby input. Follow the accounts that post their in-progress games, or tabletop-standard paintjobs, see the full picture of the community!
The literal bringing together of local hobbyists in one central location, be it a Games Workshop store or independent retailer, is always a good thing. If nothing else, it forces interaction among our sometimes reserved community. To not build on the basement-dwelling trope, I just mean that it’s always a good opportunity to have meaningful face-to-face discussions with those who share our passion for little toy soldiers. We grow and learn at times like this, and make connections with friends we may not have otherwise known who might live just down the road!
I’m hesitant to use the term ‘bad’ here, because the event isn’t remotely bad, as outlined above. There are factors I don’t like, but overall I would never call it a negative experience. But damn if it isn’t a catchy header! I’ll just come out and address the biggest issue first — and it’s the same issue I have with other popular-vote events like Armies on Parade and, to a lesser degree, Inner Circle. We’ll play a little game to illustrate my point, before moving on. Choose the better painted model from the image below:
Popular votes don’t put the best painted model at the top of the pile. The Blood Angel captain is empirically painted better, there is zero question about it. And yet, despite this, the Slaanesh dreadnought won out over it. Why? Because of the popular vote. People are voting not on the merits of a paintjob, but what appeals to them (or worse, who their friends are). There is absolutely nothing wrong with this if that was the intention of the event, to pick a crowd favorite, but as Everchosen was billed as a painting competition, I find this to be a disservice to those that worked hard to achieve a flawless paintjob.
The dreadnought is a fun mini, and overall the effect is outstanding when viewed as a whole piece. But as we are looking at paint jobs, it simply isn’t painted to the same standard as the Blood Angel captain. In examples like this, the space marine will never have the chance to be viewed among the other winners for a chance (no matter how slim) at competing for the sword. Instead, the dreadnought will be submitted in that pool of select entries to be short-listed and likely discarded immediately due to its lower quality paint job. It stole an opportunity from the better option.
I’ve had similar experiences with votes like this at tournament paint competitions, Armies on Parade, and Inner Circle (which even had a printed rubric for scoring!). People, including Games Workshop store managers, are simply not equipped to judge a painting competition. How many of y’all thought, “Wow, that Slaanesh dreadnought is awesome! It’s totally better!” when you saw it above? Our natural inclination when asked to assess two things is to give a first-glance opinion on which is better. And while I said the Blood Angel was painted better, the dreadnought did have that je ne sais quoi to edge it out as an obvious favorite, which I will happily admit.
I’m using examples from other, international store competitions here to isolate the temptation to say this is just my own prejudice showing, but I must say similar results have occurred in my store. An acquaintance of mine painted a beautiful Nurgle champion and didn’t even get top three, laid low perhaps by flashier sculpts or more evocative models. His champion was painted very well, and didn’t even skim the winners circle.
In saying this, I don’t intend to diminish those who won. The winning miniatures were beautiful and engaging, and even if my opinion on how they may have won is a little cynical, I am in no way suggesting their achievements should be voided or something to not be proud of. The first place winner was decidedly the best, I will agree with that, but there is such a mire of grey areas in the voting system that I just wish there were a better way. This isn’t anyone’s “fault,” it’s just the nature of having these sorts of things come down to a popular vote. At one point, a family with a father, mother, and two small children entered the store — their first time even hearing about Games Workshop, to see what it was all about. They certainly didn’t know Everchosen was a competition taking place, much less one that was focused solely on painting ability. That was four votes that went to an entry, likely based on a miniature just having an interesting sculpt.
But there’s the other side of the coin — in some stores it wasn’t a concern about average entries edging their way past superior ones, rather it was a clash of titans! Look at the image above. Both of those are from the same store. To not allow the second place entry (by the accomplished painter @hendarion on Instagram) to be considered for the ultimate prize is a travesty, all because he happens to live close to another talented artist. Surely there has to be a better way to sort through these sorts of entries?
On top of these complex voting issues, I find there was general turmoil in the contest rules. I found them fairly easy to navigate, but there were some pretty easy snags one could get caught on if you didn’t read them carefully. The manner in which they were publicized was counter-intuitive, with a main community page article giving a brief rundown of the general idea, but one would need to click on the link with “Terms and Conditions” buried in the middle of the article to get all of the necessary details. I feel like it would have been better served to additionally make a brief list of the major exclusions (no Forge World, plinth limitations, conversion parts, etc) on the main article to avoid a bulk of the questions that popped up online.
The rules issue isn’t really a big one, it just boils down to reading comprehension. But still, I feel it could be more clearly laid out on the initial article. There’s one absolutely batshit insane instance of a guy from Quebec working on a stunning mini, only to find out the day before that Quebec residents were ineligible from entering due to some bizarre contest legality issue exclusive to Quebec. Of course it said this on the T&C page, but imagine how that must feel for the guy that missed reading that, only to discover the day prior that he did all of that work for nothing.
What to Do?
As I’ve said numerous times above, I don’t find events like these broken to the point that they are beyond enjoyment or fail to serve their ultimate purpose. In the end, we’re going to see some top notch entries win that sword, the best of the best. The real harm done, if it can be called ‘harm’ at all, is at the mid-level submissions; the folks just hoping to make a splash at their local scene might be left with a hollow feeling after their pride and joy that they’ve painstakingly worked on loses to a Slaanesh dreadnought with curb appeal. This could have a negative impact on the event, driving away that demographic of painter, the casual enthusiasts who are striving for their absolute best and don’t have anything to show for it when they rightfully should.
If nothing changes, I will still happily attend each one. Because, even at its base level, this is an event that brings the community together to have a good time, to share our passion for painting toy soldiers, at an event that is free to enter with prizes that Games Workshop is offering up to the whole world (minus a very specific Canadian territory). Even the worst aspects of the event, in my opinion, pale in comparison to the awesomeness of getting the disparate community members together to all try for a singular purpose of pushing our painting to its limits.
I’d be curious to see if a change in voting method affects the event as a whole. Perhaps requiring voters to select a “best” and “runner up” vote, which should defray the self-voting issue where almost every entry has their one default vote, and the odd vote cast to any of the entries makes it the favorite to win. I imagine the margins of victory are very small among the entries due to everyone voting for themselves.* If everyone votes for themselves and an odd walk-in to the shop throws a vote down on what they think is coolest, is that a good indicator of who had the best painted model? Because it now has, presumably, the most votes. Just food for thought.
Push yourself to paint better every now and then. Whether its for a competition like Everchosen or not, just give it a try. See what your limits really are. You’ll learn a lot, just like I did experimenting with NMM for the first time ever! Use it as an excuse to try new things and do something different (I chose an ogre for that very reason!). And if Games Workshop hosts an event that rewards you for trying your best, even better! Just get out there and push yourself, that’s how you improve. Think about entering Armies on Parade later this year, or submitting to Golden Daemon!
My ogre entry didn’t get top three, which I obviously have feelings about, but I’ll not let my personal opinions get in the way of this article. I’m glad that I pushed it as far as I could in the time I allowed myself, and that’s reward enough, as it should be for anyone. Personal growth is an important motivator, and I highly recommend setting small goals for yourself to achieve this! Either way, I want to encourage everyone that’s even remotely considering throwing their hat into the ring to actually do so. You have nothing to lose, and you’ll push your ability just a little farther than usual, learning something new in the process!
*Always vote for yourself, and don’t let anyone else guilt you for doing it.