Afternoon #WarHamFam and #warhammercommunity as my #ArmiesOnParade coverage has come to an end, or until the Twitch live stream of the awards ceremony I just wanted to share my thoughts on this year's AoP. I first entered in 2013 and have taken part every year since - 9 years. I've paraded instore [sometimes twice in 2 different stores] and online and I'm a strong believer that AoP is for everyone in the hobby, for everyone who's painted an army - from and Underworlds Warband to the entire 1st Legion of the Horus Heresy. For this reason AoP should be celebrated for its inclusivity. It's for all hobbyists of all abilities, not just the best and most fantastical parades. Although the best boards rightfully deserve recognition, so do the many 1000s of entries who's owners would be made up to just get their board on a hobby round-up, let alone some kind of medal or certificate.
OK, so what are my thoughts about #ArmiesOnParade2022?
A year of Armies on Parade
If you recall 23rd November 2021 GW came hot out of the blocks from their 2021 awards stream on the 20th November with this community article announcing a 'year round schedule of AoP events'. And here they are:
At the time I gave my thoughts on this
which were broadly positive. 12 months on lets see if it was a success or any of my fears came to fruition. From what I could see online, for those who followed the bi-monthly structure it really helped. Having a plan and something to aim for meant some people took part that either may not have done so in the past or found preparing an entry much easier. For me it was mostly irrelevant, as I have my own projects and whims that didn't always coincide with the current theme. At the beginning of each two months there was a reminder on Warhammer Community of the theme, with a hobby round-up piece that showcased hobbyists efforts on the just finished theme. I've included the links above so you can check them out.
This was a really nice touch to try and keep such a long term event relevant. It was also another way the community could get some recognition just by taking part. That said I somehow missed some of these posts. I don't know if that's my fault or what, but I think it was July before I saw the Wizards post that sent me scuttling backwards through the archives to see the missed articles. I'm not sure if they could have done anything better with this, they were afterall asking on Twitter for people to share their efforts so there was wider reach than just the round-up/heads-up.
The official Armies on Parade website.
I was disappointed to see that the official website
still hasn't been updated, even after I emailed them twice about it - this time last year and also a couple of months back! It's still showing AoP 2020 information and is missing out on the opportunity to showcase more recent winners and other online entries. Maybe the site has run it's course and doesn't really fit into the Community and social platforms that are GW's main comms outlets. In which case, I'd suggest they even take it down. As much as the content is useful and inspiring it's out of date and undermines the current year's event if it's not actually kept current. So, either commit to it or get rid. I'd prefer they commit to it and find a way to cross pollinate content from Warhammer Community to AoP but if that's not possible, or cannibalises the Community hits, then quietly retire it.
Showcase as many Parades as possible to encourage more, not just the winners
As in my intro I strongly advocate for a less competitive promotion of AoP, I was sad to see that all too often it was the award winners from last year that were used to promote the event. These are stunning Parades and absolutely worthy of sharing again and again. But, I saw once again people openly admitting to being intimidated by the standard. I asked @WarComTeam repeatedly for more focus on all the other entries that were sent in. For Twitch hobby round-ups that showcased other great boards or first time entries, Young-bloods, small boards etc. Just anything that showcased the diversity of skill level to encourage all that they should be part of it. But they're not necessarily masters of what goes out and I'm only one voice on the matter. I think there may have been one Twitch show that did feature other 2021 boards, but I'm sure there could have been more and there was definitely scope for the official AoP page to host a gallery of entries, why not?
Get your date and socials right
As the deadline for entries approached I saw a number of posts on social media from those attending events instore and those that had entered online and here I think GW could do better. They don't appear to control in-store Parade days, Warhammer Liverpool were a week earlier than many other UK stores. I've even seen some posts over the 12th November weekend from store parades, weeks after my own! But they can try to be clearer when it is for social purposes. Pre Covid it was much clearer which was Parade day, it was set by HQ and the deluge of #ArmiesOnParade content on that day would have been sufficient to get it trending. Now I think it's somewhat diluted - is it your in-store parade? Is it online deadline day? Or, is it Twitch stream award day? Clarity of when it is will help swamp social media with everyone's hobby efforts and do more to raise the events profile.
Additionally, get the hashtags right - make sure #ArmiesOnParade #ArmiesOnParade2023 [maybe even #AoP #AoP2023] are being used because I saw the first two independently of each other. I'm no expert on these matters, how many hashtags are relevant? But be consistent and push it with those who are entering and get them to use them all year round if you're going to continue it as an all year round event.
I must admit to feeling a little bit lonely in the online entries phase. I felt like the only one sharing or pushing the event. Even WarComTeam felt less supportive than I was. There were about 5 or 6 other twitter users sharing their efforts but no one seemed to be excited until some of the store Parades, but even so there was much less about it than previous years. After a year of trying to build some hype and momentum it felt somewhat anti-climactic being the only one that cared. I may not be the best at it, I'm not even bothered about winning but maybe I'm too passionate about it?
And to date, I've seen zero YouTube content around AoP. There were a few Shorts on one channel, about the themes, throughout the year but that was it. You'd think it'd be an awesome opportunity for content, for these content creators. The perfect showcase for the 'slapchop' approach to painting armies quickly. What better way to thumb the nose at the hobbyists than for the gamers to flood the biggest hobby event with their netlist meta army painted in a week! Failing that - all those channels that have armies for their battle reports - they're already done. It's about 10 minutes for them to just take pics of an army they're about to play with. I just don't understand why they've overlooked the event and the opportunity it provides.
Or, what of all the League of Votann and 30k Horus Heresy boxes sent out? I don't think I saw any turn up on AoP. They may well have provided content and promotion around their respective launch dates but weeks or months on there was another bite of the cherry there to both add content to their channel and push the latest kits. Maybe it'll come out after the Twitch awards but I'm not so sure.
With a year-long lead up to Parade day it was somewhat disheartening to discover that prizes for my store's competition had not [all] been sent. Now maybe that was them parading early, I'm not sure, but we were lucky with participation pins at least, I value these more anyway. There were some gold category pins but I've since seen online there were Gold and Silver certificates too. Liverpool took our phone numbers in case anything else turned up so there could be more incoming. And weeks later I start to see glass trophies pop up for 'store champion'. There seems to have been a lack of consistency on what's on offer, so for in-store entries be transparent. Previously I loved the 'crux terminatus' prize medals, still want a bronze one for the set. I'd happily sacrifice that goal for continuing the certificates and pins given out this year, as the glass trophies feel like an afterthought.
The competition aspect is my least favourite part of AoP and in no way do I wish to devalue the winners. But, much like the Blog Wars approach to tournament prizes I'd rather the overall prize was less significant than rewarding all those that took part. By highlighting what each and every participant is gifted with, you will get more people entering. Arguably you might suggest that means people won't put in as much effort but the online entries can take care of that. There's still prizes and trophies there. But be honest, show what's up for grabs, both in-store and online. You're doing it with the 'organised play' packs going out for the various games, so show off the pins, the certificates etc. and keep them low-key to encourage participation first and foremost.
Touched on in places already but be clear about the rules. I love how simple the rules are but much like 8th edition 40k the [initial] simplicity often leads to confusion. Pre Covid there were more categories introduced - best theme, best painted, young bloods, first time etc. Since then we have Young Bloods, 40k, AoS and 'Best of the Rest' but I saw one hobbyist claim they'd been called a 'cheater' because they had two armies fighting each other - no such rule. In the past someone, who through no fault of their own, had to display just Guilliman and Magnus and told it 'wasn't an army', was made to feel bad for just wanting to take part! Just say every Parade is valid, so long as it's Citadel/Forgeworld minis. Make it as open as possible, so people don't start making up their own rules and making people with less minis feel excluded. Granted, a single Warhammer Underworlds warband is never likely to 'win' AoP, but stop with the focus on winning! Tell them their Parade is welcome and be clear about it. More entries means more exposure.