To Sweep or Not to Sweep…

Well this president’s blog, I thought I’d do a bit of a spicy topic – Sweeps
More specifically why I detest allowing sweeps at club shows.

For those of you that are more casual in the hobby or just aren’t familiar with the term, sweeps is where a single person is able to win multiple times (eg. first, second and third) in a single category.

It was a new term to me when I got involved in IPMS a couple of years ago and it put me off of entering shows at all… For over a year. It took a lot of cajoling from fellow club members to put anything into any show and even when I did, it wasn’t a great experience in large part because of sweeps.

I come from a background of painting gaming pieces and sometimes doing so for competitions such as the Golden Demon, Capital Palette and other gaming focused painting competitions. There’s been a lot of change in those competitions over the years but fundamentally they are very different to IPMS (I’d never heard of splitting categories until I joined IPMS for instance, many of these competitions can see a couple of hundred models put into a single category).

One of the other changes that has gained increasing favour over the years on the gaming side is open judging where each piece is judged against a standard criteria and awarded a gold, silver, bronze, merit, or nothing, based on how it measures up. There is no limit to how many can get gold or bronze or whatever as long as they’re good enough to meet the criteria. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes thinking ‘these bloody millennials just never want to see anyone lose’ and I suppose that’s fair. I don’t want to beat the opposition, or pound them into the dust… I am not in this hobby “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women”. I don’t want to sweep a category at the expense of other entrants’ enjoyment of the show just because I can and I also don’t want to be on the other side of that. I want to push myself to get better, little by little, year after year. In 2021 I got silver at Reaper Con, so in 2022 I pushed myself and got a gold. In 2023 I hope to get one of the best in show trophies, and maybe a gold in a different category. I pushed myself and I got better than my past self. But best of all I watched my friends do the same. I got to celebrate their wins without that twinge of jealousy because I’m not in this to beat others, I’m here to improve myself and help others improve. This is not a sport or tournament. It’s not player vs player. It doesn’t need to be competitive… So why make it that way? Almost all open judging is done as no sweeps so that only the best entry in a category by each person is judged and given an award, largely to keep the number of awards manageable but it seems intuitive enough and even contests that don’t have open judging tend not to support sweeps.

This wasn’t intended to be a monologue about the merits of open judging, and I think IPMS is still a long way from seriously considering that format. This is meant to be about sweeps…

The first IPMS contest I entered, last year, had good turn out. It is one of the more popular shows in region 9 and most categories had a good showing with half a dozen different folks entering and 10-12 different models on each table. I had finally put a couple of models in to be judged and they were awful… Missing parts, not great finish, one was an OoB build of a kit first tooled in the 70s. I didn’t expect to win and I didn’t. There was, however, something else I didn’t expect – to see the same three or four people win over and over again, often picking up two awards in a category. Even if some of these categories are lightly entered it’s still pretty disheartening for someone new to the scene to go through an awards ceremony and just feel so far below these apparent gods of the modelling world. Doing the whole circuit of shows, it was the same story over and over again, often with the same models (another bugbear of mine).

The hobby has an aging demographic and it’s only getting worse, but I truly feel we can address this with the scariest of all ideas… Change. Is a no sweeps rule the panacea? A cure all / silver bullet? Nope… Not even close. It’s a small, tentative step to maybe make things more welcoming to newer hobbyists or some of our cousins in the gaming and model car worlds. Such a small step that the nationals took it years ago… But not region 9. Apparently never region 9.

We had a misprint on our show flyers that was 100% down to me not proof reading copy as I should have that indicates we will only accept one entry per category, I’d intended it to be no sweeps and not meant to be yelling it to the world as if throwing down some kind of gauntlet decrying people flooding categories with their entries…
It was also a decision I’d made without input from the club, again something I shouldn’t have done but went ahead with clearly underestimating the degree of outrage I was generating in doing so.

The good news for all regular IPMS show attendees is that we are fully walking back on both 1 model per category and no sweeps rules. We’ll be running the contest just like every other contest in the Central Valley and wider Bay Area. I am honestly looking forward to seeing tables filled with the hard work of our members and those of other clubs. I also hope folks will consider bringing display only pieces from years past. We are hosting in a game store so we have a unique opportunity to really reach potential new members, ones that may not even be aware of what we do. So please, all of you, bring your A game to the show.

And me? Am I bitter? Sure I am. I honestly believe that this is doing a disservice to our hobby and impacting our ability to attract new hobbyists, the thing I am most passionate about… But equally, it’s not just my hobby and it’s not just my club. So for now I’ll continue to try and convince you all of the merits of my arguments while doing my best to represent the will of the club and the region.

Thanks for reading and apologies for causing all this upset and confusion.