Play it Painted’s Year in Review: 2014
As I write this, we have 23 days remaining in 2014.
That makes me feel that starting to write this may be a bit premature. If there’s anything I learned in this past year, a lot can change in 23 days. 2014 was a pivotal year not just for Play it Painted, but for myself on many different levels. The year is marked with significant change, it was kicked off by significant change, and at the moment I am cautiously optimistic about where these significant changes may lead us. In the past 23 days, I’ve seen my son go from being barely able to stand to now walking. All around me is change, some of it slightly traumatic, but a fair bit of it to be quite promising.
First up, there were significant changes to some of us personally. For myself, with my wife and I having our son in October of 2013 was the most important thing to happen to us since getting married in 2008. I can’t even begin to express my happiness with our new addition, and every day with our son has just been incredible. Octavius is doing very well, he’s the happiest baby I have ever known, and he grows stronger every day! I look forward to getting to know my son more as the years go by.
Also during the summer of 2014, our very own Phill Howard married his wife Faith. I’m very happy for them and we’ve already enjoyed a few couples gatherings together, and looking forward to many more. Congrats to Phill and Faith!
These significant life changes did have some bearing in our approach to Play it Painted and our strategy for 2014. In order to continue to operate as an active ambassador for tabletop gaming, we needed to become a more efficient operation. It is difficult enough for our new families and new family members to be without us when we are hosting and attending gaming events, so spending large amounts of money in addition to sacrificing time just isn’t being fair to our families our ourselves. It is reasons like this that fueled Play it Painted’s commission painting services, to help fund our hobbies and even put a little extra on the table to cover some costs on the homefront. We also needed efficiency in our shows- we needed a more unified games offering than the dozens of different games we hosted in 2013, and ideally any form of manufacturer compensation for our activities would be helpful. Finally higher priority demands on our time required us to be smarter with our actual gaming and activity time- we needed trustworthy, reliable support from our PiP teammates to ensure a high quality show without it always falling to a few to hold up the shows when others failed on their commitments.
Play It Painted in Social Media
As a result of the change in our operational scope, one of the goals of this past year was to establish this new identity on the local scene, and to take it a step further in the form of self-promotion. This isn’t something we’ve been historically very comfortable with, but we felt it necessary to firm up our new identity and grow our customer base. This meant gathering new promotional materials and investing some effort into engaging with gaming media, an area some of us have considered to be a mine-field at times. And while it is true that we’ve attracted our share of critics and detractors, I would say that our efforts to gain a bit more recognition have gone over fairly well. Our live show is arguably the longest running miniature gaming and painting recurring show on Youtube, and it encourages me to see others adopting the format to promote the hobby. I have continued developing introduction series on my Youtube channel, with a stronger focus on the Ninja Division games, while still offering content outside of Ninja Division. I have hosted and guest appeared on a few podcasts this year, including Combat Phase with Robert Allen, Questing Knights with Mark Dieter, and Total Command: The Hell Dorado Hobbycast with hosts Dave Leach and Jill and Grayson Walker. I’ve also signed on with Robert Nolan, who spearheads the Tales of the Ninja fanzine, and we’ve seen content from Phill, Paul, and Corey in this fanzine as well.
At the start of the year, I was signed up as a Free Agent for Cipher Studios, continuing my campaign of painting and enjoying Anima Tactics, and I had begun my deep dive into Hell Dorado. Cipher had thus far impressed me with the quality of their sculpts, phenomenal art and game settings, and solid rulesets. I did realize though that Cipher wasn’t really seen as a large or current mover or shaker in the miniatures industry and in consideration of my new baby and our fledgling commission services, I was pretty content. But significant change was right around the corner, and as soon as we recognized it, we made efforts to try and get ahead of the curve.
The big announcement at the start of the year was that Ninja Dvision, the new collaboration between Cipher Studios and Soda Pop Miniatures, were going to pool a collective volunteer resource called the Ninja Corps. Whether you were a Free Agent, a Soda Pop girl, or a member of CMON’s Legion program, Ninja Division was asking us to sign up for this new program, which would dissolve the FA and SPG programs, and split off from Legion along with SPM’s formal split from CMON. For myself this was a very interesting change as I had been a fan of Soda Pop’s miniature boardgame Super Dungeon Explore and had always held high regard for the art and sculpts for Relic Knights which was just around the corner from its release. So looking towards 2014, we set a new direction for our group to support the newly formed Ninja Division and feature their miniature games heavily in our convention shows.
As it would turn out, Ninja Division is a better fit for us than companies we’ve worked with in previous years. Their repertoire of games allow us to expand out towards the crowds of folks we feel have tremendous potential as new tabletop gamers- namely fans of anime’, comics, sci-fi, and fantasy. For some time now our core leadership has held to the strategy that promoting new games to veteran miniature gamers was only a portion of our efforts to grow gaming. We note in the past that introducing complete newbies directly into the intricacies of miniature skirmish games is challenging on a number of levels. Ideally what we want is a gateway game- a game with a broad reaching, highly appealing theme with easy to learn mechanics. The ideal game could be taught and experienced in groups, in as short as 30 minutes or less, yet expandable to entertain groups of people for a few hours while teaching them. There are very few games that hit all these marks as well as Super Dungeon Explore. The versatility, and accessibility of this game made it our bread and butter game for our 2014 convention season, and with the new Forgotten King set on its way, SDE will remain a mainstay of our convention shows.
Towards the end of our convention season, Relic Knights started to trickle in from its Kickstarter, giving those of us who were already on board at this point, a brand new and highly unique miniatures skirmish game to sink our teeth into. The very long incubation period for this game meant that it really did not see any penetration from our local con scene, which up until that point was more focused on Hell Dorado as the primary miniatures game to offer with the gateway SDE game, which now had an arena mode. Hell Dorado and Anima Tactics were responsible for drumming up the initial interest among what would become the nucleus for our new core events team, and they remain part of our main supported systems, especially Hell Dorado as it finds significant appeal in the mainstream miniatures gaming crowd where many of these other games do not, therefore we are more likely to feature Hell Dorado in shows that attract a more veteran gaming crowd. That said- Relic Knights carries a refreshing take on miniature skirmish games and the ooh shiney factor has the game out in front for us by year’s end, making it a prime feature in any Ninja Dvision events we would host in the near future. Relic Knights has proven itself to be an exciting new game within this space, and our budding community is posting high activity and growth well into the offseason.
Speaking of offseason- we’re having a surprisingly strong offseason of activity here at Play it Painted. The offseason is our chance to branch out a bit from the rigors of the convention season, and so one of our favorite offseason games, Saga, became an event of its own under Phill, who coined the name “Sagaugust”. Phill held the very first Sagaugust this year in San Diego-a very fun event and one that I am greatly anticipating for next year as well.
And one of the last highlights of the year, was another off-season event that helped kick off our now active Relic Knights community. I’m referring to our participation in Extra Life 2014, which included teammates such as Jillian Walker from Geek Girl Weekly and Total Command: The Hell Dorado Hobbycast podcasts, as well as local friends who also worked to raise money to help local Children’s Hospitals. Our participation in Extra Life included over 8 weeks of prizes and raised over $1800 over several events, including a Relic Knights charity tournament and multiple gaming live streams from our members. The entire experience was incredibly satisfying, and we’re looking forward to more opportunities to use our gaming superpowers to help others!
Finally, the end of year has really seen our Relic Knights activity grow, and we hope to carry that momentum into the new year. No fewer than 6 RK tournaments have been hosted in SoCal dating back to the first one held at the Strategicon Gateway convention, and one tournament of note was hosted at Arcana Brewery by our own Corey Briggs! Congratulations to Corey for hosting a very fun and successful event, and for bring us the unusual opportunity to enjoy our gaming within the confines of a brewery!
As previously mentioned, with the change in scope and direction, Play it Painted has seen a changing of the guard in 2014. And while we have always felt that we have put on solid convention shows in representing tabletop gaming, we felt that the changes made in 2014 have led to a significant overall improvement in terms of having games with a better overall fit and more reliable teams and scheduling. It is my opinion that our shows in 2014 have been our best convention shows to date, and I wish to thank the folks who stepped up or joined this year in helping our lives run a little smoother. Our teammates have demonstrated a commitment to hosting high quality events, and maintaining a culture of quality is a priority for us here at Play it Painted. Looking ahead, we will always be seeking out those who are truly passionate about teaching games to others and growing communities, as the larger this pool of quality volunteers grows, the more shows and opportunities we can accommodate.
Some of the things you can expect to see in the next year include continuing to grow and strengthen our relations with Ninja Division. We feel that Ninja Division games offer us a diverse selection of experiences that we can enjoy and bring to our broad convention schedule, both for established gamers and our new potential audiences as well. Forgotten King (SDE) and Relic Knights will be our bread and butter games for the upcoming convention season, but let’s not forget Hell Dorado for gaming-focussed conventions/events. Speaking of new audiences, for 2015 we will continue our efforts to grow our presence in these areas where we believe we can find new crowds to enjoy these games. This could mean looking at new opportunities within the anime’/cosplay/comic/sci-fi fantasy arenas, and is not strictly limited to the large convention circuit.
At the store level, we will continue supporting and hosting events at our local shops as a means of maintaining activity for our playerbase. While we may not be adding many more days to store events, we may consider increasing the variety of those events to include more paint days, or more specialized events such as achievement leagues to help teach new players while giving them full day events to enjoy.
Our core approach shall always remain the same: activity driven content and growth. By remaining active within our community, and focusing on positive activities such as gaming events, painting, and outreach, we will continue to find high quality and fun people to game with, to paint with, and to share our hobby with. We will pursue those endeavors that we enjoy the most, and invite others to join along.
With all of this, bandwidth will continue to be a challenge, especially if we look to add more shows. For this reason I will need to lean on our convention teams once again to help meet commitments on the convention schedules, and we will seek to grow our volunteer pool even more, assuming we see some attrition or even our normal level of scheduling challenges.
We are deeply grateful for all of you who have supported us- our friends who attend our events, store owners who allow us to host events, and convention organizers who put their trust in us to give their attendees a good show. In addition, to our extended family on the internet, our new friends in Ninja Division and in the podcasting/youtube worlds that support us from their own regions, and those out there who earnestly champion the tabletop gaming hobby.
Thank you all for a wonderful 2014, Happy Holidays, and see you next year!