Once again we attended the Golden Demon competition in the UK. This 2017 edition was an important occasion. One that somehow aspired to refreshen the contest and take it back to its best years. After the event, which has finally settled with the victory of Michal Pisarski and his already famous Nagash on the Throne, and now that we are long past the post-Golden hangover, it is time to make an analysis of what we saw in the event.
Golden Demon 2017: A New Hope
A few months ago, Games Workshop announced important changes for the 2017 edition. It was the 30th anniversary of the English version of the GD, the original and the only one that survived the big cuts of a few years ago. The perfect occasion to boost to the contest with just a few changes of concept. It also coincided that the Golden Demon’s old guard, and especially Alan Merret, who for years was the chief of jury, retired from the organization. This was a great opportunity for young people with fresh ideas to take control of the contest. With the arrival of Darren Latham and new names from the ‘Eavy Metal team of painters as the steering committee, everyone expected a big renewal.
The changes promised for this edition
The first and most relevant change had nothing to do with the competition itself, but more with the attitude that the company has taken towards its fanbase in recent months. Games Workshop previously followed a policy of turning its back on the customer, ignoring the community and doing things their own way without listening to their fans. Things have changed and the new policy, championed by initiatives such as the Warhammer Community or Warhammer TV, has allowed social networking to become a forum for open communication with the company. This is now also noticeable in the organization of the Golden Demon, as we have seen how for example Darren Latham and Max Faleij, from the ‘Eavy Metal team, have appeared publicly to tell us in detail what we would expect for this year’s competition. Another detail was the creation of a website to showcase winners of different Golden Demon editions (in the end it’s merely a blog, still light years away from what the community wanted the Demonwinner initiative to be, but it’s still something). These details may seem easy and simple to implement, but have taken Games Workshop 30 editions.
Among the proposed changes, new categories: ‘Eavy Metal Masters Painting (the traditional Spanish ‘Gran Maestro’, now in the UK) and the Blood Bowl category, as well as an extra category for Youngbloods (it’s important to take care of the younglings!). Perhaps the most relevant was the announcement of a new Sword, now golden, to differentiate the winner of the ‘Golden Demon: Classic’ with the rest of smaller Golden Demon events held in Nottingham throughout the year. These changes certainly kindled hope for many painters. Was Games Workshop taking its Golden Demon seriously again?
“We do not understand how a competition that is supposed to be so relevant in the painting world has an award ceremony that even a high school would organize more elegantly.”
The painting community was indeed encouraged. In contrast to previous years, this Golden Demon has had much greater participation and level. Some of the best worldwide painters of the moment decided to swing by with works of the highest level, and we have seen hundreds of figures swarming the cabinets. However, now that the event has passed, we look back and realize that nothing has really changed. Last year’s edition and this one, apart from the participation, have not been that different.
Golden sword? Where?
The most striking news for those who follow the contest closely was to realize that there was no golden sword. Suddenly, we saw that the sword was exactly the same as always. It seems that there have been logistical problems. But how is it possible? If this was announced months in advance, how can the day of the contest come and there’s no golden sword? Doesn’t seem like this is what we mean by taking the Golden Demon seriously.
The awards ceremony, the most exciting and relevant moment of the contest, was plagued with problems. First, delays. The prizes for games and tournaments, which could have been delivered at any other time or place, made the ceremony far too long without much reason. Second, the place chosen for the ceremony: a small stage surrounded by gaming tables. It is not the right place for the public to stand and pay tribute to the winners. Even in last year’s edition, with less people, the stage was set up in the Golden Demon area and had more appeal. In addition, the screen did not work, so the public could not see the winner miniatures. We do not understand how a competition that is supposed to be so relevant in the painting world has an award ceremony that even a high school would organize more elegantly.
New times, same mistakes
To this failure in the announced changes, we have to add the usual sins. The display cabinets continue to have terrible lighting that instead of illuminating the pieces, what they do is destroy the paint job and burn the colours so that you can’t see anything at all.
Look at those incredible freehands on the shoulderpads…. if you can!
The contest continues to go by in the blink of an eye. This year has proved that with so many figures, judging, photographing and showcasing to the public is impossible with the time available. For an attendee to the event, seeing the relevant miniatures of the contest was practically impossible considering that some of the best ones spent most of the day at the jury table, out of sight. Or waiting to be photographed, who knows.
Hopes for the future?
Despite all, the day was worth it for us. Being surrounded by so many good painters and passionate miniature fans deserves the pain of watching Games Workshop consider its Golden Demon as a mere kill-time. The problem with all this is that many painters returned to the contest attracted by the promises of change and fresh air. They have probably returned home with the same old feeling. Many of the participants are already quite senior, others are even professionals in miniature painting. We must give the painters something serious in return so that they remain willing to invest HUNDREDS of hours in a figure when the public cannot even see their work properly in a cabinet. We have seen dozens of local contests that have taken themselves more seriously than Golden Demon.
All in all, I think that the 30th edition of UK’s Golden Demon has been a missed opportunity. We will be back next year of course, motivated as always, hoping that Games Workshop finally decides to play all in, as promised. Their homework is very clear: decent lighting for the cabinets, a more relaxed timetable to let the audience appreciate all the pieces as they should and an award ceremony that meets everyone’s expectations. I would even dare to add the Golden Sword to the list.
The good thing is that we know for a fact that there is already an internal conversation in Games Workshop promoted by the people dearest to the contest to improve things. We want to send them all our support and wish them a very successful endeavour.
For a 31st edition of Golden Demon that makes everyone proud!
EDIT: Just a few minutes after the posting of this article, we received a very promising statement directly from Darren Latham himself:
That is indeed a great detail that we did not know about! A very great step in the right direction for our very dear Golden Demon! 🙂