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If you’re not a big fan of Reaper or manufacturer specific events, I have good news for you: miniatures from any manufacturer are welcome in the figure show/contest, and there are vendors selling other brands of figures in the vending hall. And now I hope you will keep reading for more details on why this is such a great convention for miniature painting and sculpting enthusiasts of all kinds!
ReaperCon is Labor Day Weekend – September 2-5, 2021
ReaperCon is booked into the same location on Labour Day weekend through 2023! Start planning now for 2022!
The following was written in 2018, please ignore any further date/time references. I will be working on an updated version of this, but the general information provided here applies to every ReaperCon.
ReaperCon is two weeks away. (Ack, ack, ack!) It’s not too late to come to the show!. If you’re someone who needs more time to plan (which honestly I am most of the time), then consider this a discussion of why you should start planning now to attend ReaperCon 2019, which should be around the same time of year. :->
Disclaimer: I do freelance work for Reaper Miniatures, and have been one of the artists brought into ReaperCon to teach for many years. They didn’t ask me to write this, and I’m not getting any benefit or consideration for doing so. I started going to ReaperCon long before I did any work in the industry, and I credit the classes I’ve taken there (and at other conventions) for being a big part of how I got good enough to become a freelancer and painting teacher. I’ve only missed two ReaperCons, the first and the third, and I’ve twice made the long trip by car to get myself there. (I hate driving more than an hour!)
Painting and Sculpting Classes
ReaperCon has grown to the point where it has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) schedule of painting classes of any convention. I’m not sure there’s another convention that has anywhere near so many sculpting and conversion classes. There are dozens of instructors, each teaching multiple class sessions. Many of the classes are hands-on, though there are also topics that are best served by more of a demo or lecture format. There are topics of interest to any level, and even for children. If I had the time, I would love to be able to take classes here myself!
But there’s something Reaper does that I think is unique among conventions. Each of the sculptors and painters is assigned a spot at a long row of tables. They have name tags in front of them. When they aren’t teaching classes or judging, they hang out here. You can watch them work, which I always find very instructive. If you’ve taken a class and then practice what you learned for a while, you can bring your practice work over to the instructor for feedback. Or maybe you couldn’t get into a class, or just had a few questions on a topic – the instructors are there for that too.
The instructors also bring some of their work for you to look at and enjoy, though most of us do not manage to have such an extensive display as James Wappel has put on here!
Since it’s so close to the date of the show a lot of classes are already sold out, but there are also still lots of openings in many classes. And they hold back two tickets for day-of sales, so there’s still a chance to get into a sold-out class or two You can see the class slate here. You need to buy a pass before you’re able to buy class seats, however.
MSP Open Figure Painting and Sculpting Show
The ReaperCon contest/show is open to entries from any and all manufacturers. Or even pieces which aren’t traditional minis. In the past entries have included garage kits, a repainted gumball machine bust, a scratch built sailing ship, and many more creative things. There are some special awards that are specific to Reaper miniatures, and there are some other manufacturer special awards. (This year includes Bombshell Miniatures and Dark Sword Miniatures.) Entries must be pieces that you have never before entered into a ReaperCon show, but that’s about it – they don’t need to be brand new work, and can have been entered in or won at other contests. One of the things I most love about this kind of show is that the entries are placed onto raised tables. So you can really get a good look at them and enjoy them in a more three dimensional way than you can in contests where they are closed away in cases. (There is someone to monitor the room, which is closed up at night.)
ReaperCon uses an open show style for its painting contest, with some additional special awards. In an open show, you can enter anything from one to a handful of figures into each category. The judges pick which of these they feel is the best piece that you entered into that category, and judge you against a standard. Each piece is assessed by a team of three judges. Their scores are averaged, and the entrant is awarded a certificate of merit, or bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on the result. So in essence, you are competing against yourself, and you strive to outdo yourself each year. (Though note that each level is progressively more difficult! It takes a lot more work to move from silver to gold than it does to move from certificate to bronze, for example.)
On the left is an example of some entries into the 2017 MSP Open. One entrant has created an attractive display of his pieces at the back of the picture, but as you can see from the front of the picture, simpler displays are fine too. The picture on the right shows the trophies and medals waiting to be awarded to the entrants.
The judging standard takes a several elements into accounts and can differ by category. So in the Painters category, painting technique and painting effects are 70% of what is considered, but basing is just 5%, and conversions are considered only in terms of how they might contribute to the overall aesthetic of the piece. Whereas in Open, painting is worth only 30% of the score, and extensive basing and/or conversion or outright scratch sculpting are weighted much more heavily.
In the event that a judge has advised an entrant on their piece or in some other way feels that they may be biased for OR against the entrant, there are alternate judges available to step in. The judging is not conducted in an adversarial way. We want to encourage people to enter, to keep on striving for their best results and to push the hobby ever onwards towards new cool things! As part of that, judges are available after the show results are announced to give feedback.
The Best in Show figure is decided not by the judges, but by the votes of everyone who enters the contest. Non-Reaper figures are eligible and have won this in the past. There are also two runners up awards for the Reaper and non-Reaper figure that got the next most votes. Reaper figure entries are eligible for consideration for the Sophie trophies for each category, with additional awards for best Reaper large monster type piece, and best Reaper mousling piece.
Get Your Game On!
Hobby activities are a big focus at ReaperCon, but there is also a lot of gaming. Which can be good news if you’re super excited about the painting/sculpting stuff but you have a family member or friend who needs to be convinced to come along with you. ;-> There are role-playing games, miniature games, and a board game library. You can ‘take out’ board games from the library, and the board game volunteer is available to teach you how to play. This year there is even a gaming-only pass. So if you do have a friend or family member who only wants to come out to game, they can purchase a less expensive pass. And they’re even still eligible to enter the MPS Open contest! (But not to take painting classes.)
On the left is a great table of miniature gaming terrain. The right shows a portion of the board game library.
What else can you do at ReaperCon? You can take a tour of the Reaper facility and find out how miniatures are made! The picture on the left shows the metal miniature casting area. The picture on the right is the Reaper miniature gallery that you can tour at the facility. It is filled with literally hundreds of miniatures painted by some pretty terrific painters! (And some stuff that I have painted, as well. ;->)
Try your luck at the melt table. What is the melt table, you might wonder? During ReaperCon, you can exchange old metal miniatures from numerous manufacturers that you no longer want for credit to purchase new metal Reaper miniatures. The figures that are traded in are placed on the melt table, and attendees are welcome to scour it for wondrous treasures that they can purchase with trade-in credit or cash. It is not at all uncommon to spot classic figures that fetch a pretty penny on eBay or other long out of print minis. For more information on the figure brands accepted for trade-in or to ask questions about the trade-in program, see this thread on the Reaper forums. http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/39734-metal-trade-in-approved-company-list/
The auction is another fun activity. The auction takes place on Sunday, and the only currency accepted is Reaper Bucks. These are earned by taking classes, playing games, wearing costumes, and other convention activities. Auction items include Reaper products, but also other games and hobby related items. The auction is presided over by an experienced auctioneer, and is fun to watch as well as participate in.
The pictures below show another couple of great ReaperCon features. Pinball and classic arcade games are a great way to take a break from painting and classes! And the artists aren’t the only people who get to sit down to paint. Tables are available for attendees to hang out and hobby at, too. So you have a place where you can practice what you’ve been learning in classes to really try to cement it in your mind, as well as the opportunity to swap tips and tricks with fellow attendees. You will need to bring your own paint and supplies, and a battery operated lamp if you’re concerned about lighting. (Though people are often pretty friendly about sharing supplies, especially since some drive and can bring lots of stuff, and others come via plane with limited supplies.)
Friends are a big part of the fun of every convention. Even if you don’t know anyone there when you arrive, chances are you’ll have made some friends before you leave! (I was extra introverty during my first ReaperCon so it took me two gos, but don’t be me. If it helps, you can start getting to know people beforehand on the Reaper forums – http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/forum/23-reapercon/
And lastly… vendors! You can of course buy a large selection of Reaper products at their booth, but you’ll also find the booths of other miniature companies – Arena Rex, Scale75, Black Heart Miniatures, Bombshell Miniatures, and others were present at 2017. Other vendors sell terrain, gaming products, basing materials, and general cool geek stuff.
So, that’s where I’m going to be in two weeks. I hope you’ll come out and join us! And if not this year, start planning now for next year…