Below is the current 2017 Army Appearance Primer. This system will be used for many of the events at this year's NOVA Open.
Cheap Plug: I am always looking for volunteers to help out with Appearance judging. If you are interested please email customerservice@novaopen.
A 3-judge panel scores army appearance over the course of two rounds: an Initial Round and a Final Round. In the Initial Round, Judges rank contestants into one of four tiers based on an overarching assessment of the army. This evaluation looks at the army as a whole, without detailed review of individual models. More detailed evaluations take place in the Final Round, as a way to whittle down the contestants who passed the initial elimination. Only armies that were assessed to be in the top tier of competitors will advance to the Final Round of judging.
NOVA Open scoring does not use a “points checklist”. Judges use guiding criteria (shown below), which offer latitude to both the hobbyist and the judges, to give flexible weighting to different aspects of the army. This method allows the strengths of an army to perhaps overcome some of its weaknesses, whereas a checklist rubric offers no such flexibility. Moreover, the use of a 3-judge panel levels out biases among different judges.
The Nova Open uses one consistent scoring method across all tournaments. Having one army appearance scoring system is easier for players, TOs, and judges to learn and implement.
The scoring is intended to result in a rough bell curve. Qualifications for entering the top tier, and moving on to the Final Round of judging, can be modified to fit the situation. For example, if competition is particularly steep, the rubric may be adjusted to stiffen the requirements for entering the Final Round.
It’s important to remember that tournaments attract competitive hobbyists and the field is strong. As a result, the judges may see truly lovely armies that will not be passed to the Final Round, simply because the overall competition is too steep to allow for it at this time. This system is designed so that the majority of players (approximately 70%) will end up in Tier 2. Entry into Tier 1 is limited in order to save time for players, TOs, and judges. The top tier is for the armies with the best chance of winning the competition once the judges go in for the detailed inspection.
Initial Round Judging
Initial Round judging is designed to be fast and efficient. There are a limited number of judges and they are responsible for every entry from every tournament. Some players may even have their armies judged multiple times if they entered the same army in more than one tournament, (e.g., 40k GT and Trios). It is of extreme importance to the judges that they NOT waste the players’ time, especially in cases when it was difficult to schedule a time to do the judging. Therefore, the Initial Round of judging is designed to move quickly and efficiently. It is not uncommon for a judge to see an army that is interesting and well painted, and for that judge to want to spend more time examining said army. However, if there is anything about the army that will hold it back from making top tier, the judge must move on and continue to evaluate the remaining armies.
Each army will be evaluated by at least two judges during the Initial Round. If the judges don’t agree about which tier the army should be placed in, a third judge in brought in as a tiebreaker. If the scores of all three judges differ, then the Head Judge adjudicates them. The Head Judge has the option to conference with the other judges or to decide unilaterally.
Judges will study in detail only those armies that are placed in the top tier. Once the Initial Round elimination takes place, the players who did not proceed to the Final Round are free to spend their time as they see fit. It’s been said that the Nova Open Army Painting Competition should do detail level judging on all entries. However, the organizers of the competition feel that it is more respectful to release the competitors who are in the lower tiers, so that they can enjoy the rest of the convention…instead of standing around for hours while 100 other armies are given in depth examinations.
|This is the Archaon Everchosen painted by Duncan Rhodes and donated to the NOCF last year. This is truly a Tier 1 model and if the entire army were painted to this level it would be a front runner for best painted.|
A few years ago Dave Taylor generously donated some of his work to the Nova Open 2014 Charity Raffle. This Land Raider is another clear example of a work of art in model painting.
|This is a unit that would be ranked into Tier 2. The colors match and the technique is good. The green metallic is eye catching, but nothing is jumping out for that “Wow factor”.|
Unfortunately, it’s hard to come by pictures of a Tier 3 army, since they aren’t often photographed. :)
Final Round Judging
As stated previously, only those entries that were judged to be in the top tier will be evaluated for the Final Round judging. Whereas, there were only two judges in the Initial Round, with the third judge acting as a tiebreaker, all three judges contribute to the score for the Final Round.
Four criteria have been identified for the detailed judging, two of which are considered Objective and two of which are considered Subjective. Objective criteria can be “graded” according to a technical standard or according to artistic principles. Subjective criteria account for creative qualities that cannot be measured against a standard. (See chart below)
The four criteria do not have a formal weighting. For each of the four criteria, each judge assigns a modifier (+1, 0, -1). For three judges across four criteria, a player’s score can range from +12 to -12. This creates another bell curve distribution and, once again, the use of three judges counteracts any individual biases.
A word to the wise contestant: Be cautious with the use of advanced techniques. Don’t look at the chart below and think that this is a grocery list of techniques that the judges want to see on the armies. The judges are more focused on how successful the technique was than they are on the fact that it was attempted at all. It is possible for a player to make it to the Final Round of judging with a beautifully painted army that uses simple techniques like washes and highlighting. It is also possible of an army to attempt, and fail, more advanced techniques and never make it the Final Round of judging, where those techniques would come into play for scoring. Make the army as attractive as possible to get it to the Final Round, and focus on the techniques that you are confident with.
Final Round Judging Criteria
Some players go extra lengths to present their army on a display board. There is no requirement to do so, nor are display boards formally included in the judging criteria. Whether a judge includes a display board as part of his or her assessment is left to the judge’s discretion. There may be exceptions, where a TO tailors his or her tournament to formally recognize display boards for judging. Regardless, display boards are fully encouraged as a growing and exciting part of the hobby, which peers and judges alike are sure to appreciate and which undoubtedly supplement the “wow factor” of your army.
Lessons Learned. In our experience, the optimal size for a display board is two feet by two feet. This is not the same thing as four feet square. A display board that is one foot wide and four feet long is a much different proposition that one that is 2 x 2, especially when most doors are three feet wide.
Consider that you are probably transporting your army on the display board. You don’t want something that is unwieldy and hard to maneuver through a crowded convention. 2 x 2 keeps the board close into your body and limits the possibility that someone will jostle you and spray hundreds of hours of your work all over the convention floor, where it can get broken and even stepped on. For this same reason, it’s best to keep any vertical height to no more than 2 feet, as well. You want to be able to see where you are going, after all. Note that vertical dimensions are NOT required on display boards. It’s just something that we’ve seen.
Appearance Judging Process
The logistics for how and when an army is judged depend on each individual tournament. As much as possible, arrangements will be made with the TO to work out a method that suits the particular tournament. However, in no case will armies be judged during play. Times for appearance judging should be listed on the convention schedule. Judges will also be walking around approximately ten minutes before the judging and calling out what tournament is being judged and in what location.
Army Appearance Judging is now completely voluntary. In previous years, players were required to participate in the appearance judging in order to gain a painting score for the Renaissance Man prize for the 40k events. Going forward, players are no longer required to participate, but their paint score will automatically be 0, thus effectively disqualifying them from receiving this prize. It is possible that other tournaments may enact something similar in the future, but at no point will appearance judging be mandatory. If you have any questions about when and how to have your army judged, ask your TO.
Starting in 2015, players will be able to opt-out of the appearance judging for their tournament during online registration. It is our intention to setup the registration so that players can alter their selection online after registering, should they change their minds. There will also be an undecided option. If a player is undecided, then he will be asked if he intends to participate in the Appearance judging when he checks into the convention. That decision is final.
Thank you to Mike “Shades” Schaeffer, Bob Likins, and Mike Brandt for their work in initially developing the Nova Open Appearance Judging Scoring system. Contributions were also made by Adrienne Geffert and Neil Gilstrap. Special thanks to the hobbyists that have participated in the appearance judging competitions since this system was implemented and took the time to provide constructive feedback to the designers in order to help us make improvements.