Friday, June 23, 2006 Army Scores 38/40 for Appearance in AWC Approved Tournament Tracker event

Matt Baugh, proud owner of the very first space marine army we painted, received 38/40 at last weekend's AWC Approved Tournament Tracker tournament. This was not a joint second place as reported earlier, but a joint sixth place.

"I was very pleased to score 38 out of 40 for appearance," said Matt to me later. "At a painting cost of $2.50 per space marine, 38 out of 40 is something I would never have dreamed of when I sent those off to you for painting."

This made me happy to no end -- the first reported, impartial assessement of one of our armies in a tournament setting. This wasn't a tournament series I was familiar with, so I asked my partner Luke what the scale of this event was, and how much our score really meant.

"Let me put it this way," he began bluntly, "we're in the same league as Brian Carlson, who won six Best Appearances and Players Choice Awards in the last year. We were just two points behind the winner, Tom Ortman, who won the 2005 Tracker Season overall. "

"This event was significant Navin," he continued. "Half of the participants were either Adepticon award winners of some sort or arganizers and judges at Adepticon."

We since learned from the tourney organizers and participants that even though the raw scores would suggest this, given that so many people tied for first place it is a little meaningless to try draw any kind of assessment on painting quality based on the 38/40.

So has our painting come a long way? I think it has (just take a look at our more recent work like our 100+ model dwarf slayer army) , but high appearance scores may not be indicative of quality (we got an A+ on test -- but since so many others did it doesn't have any real value).

Still, rocognition is recognition, and its good to know that our very first, table top quality, space marine army was quite tournament worthy. It's been an achievement not just for my painters, but also for our clients who have been loyally spreading the word about us to their friends, our quality, and our low pricing.

From myself and the painters, thank you for everything.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Painted Anime - Paintedfigs does Singapore

I went to Singapore last week, officially to kick back and relax for a change. I did too, it was the first time in nine months that I didn't check email.

Singapore is an awesome city -- and yes, it is one big city state. It's clean, modern, prosperous, and full of high end electronics that are fantastically cheap since they're manufactured there :) . Singaporeans are great people, interesting, hard working, and highly motivated.

Sadly, Singapore is a pretty awful if you're Singaporean. You are likely paid less for the same work than expats with the same qualifications (a problem in Sri Lanka as well). Demonstrating gets you jailed for 25 years. There is no secret ballot, and the media is censored.

But Singaporeans carry on. Many understand that though they don't care for it, the quasi-totalitarian regime of Lee Kuan Yew has done a lot to create their success. Others simply cross their fingers and wait for Lee to die of old age.

Of Robin Low and Jacob Pang
Robin is a good friend of mine from Boston. We were at Harvard together, and I help him with PR for his own company,, a nanotech startup that sells self-deodorizing and anti-bacterial clothing.

Jacob, originally from Hong Kong, is one of Robin's lads and pretty cool guy. He has his own shipping company, and he's been doing sales for Greenyarn in China and Singapore for a while now. Jacob used to sell transformer kits, and he's familiar with the anime market.

The Anime Model Market
It was while shopping for GW supplies that we noticed the possibilities of the anime market. We found shop after shop selling plastic anime chicks, gundam model kits, and geshaphon. Jacob and Robin saw the potential well before I did, and did a good job of convincing me.

The next day we started laying down the ground work. Jacob is sending us some Gundam model kits soon so we can assemble and paint them as samples. Once we have something presentable, we'll put some in stores in Singapore and see how they move.


Then we cross our fingers. If all goes well, we sit down and figure out how to flood the market.

Meeting Up With Stephen Sing Stephen Sing has been one of our earliest clients. He came us to back when were just me and two painters -- and now that we've more than tripled in size, he's STILL drumming his fingers waiting for us to get him his poor minis...

I didn't get to spend as much time meeting with him as I'd like to have -- what should have been a casual hang out became, as usual, a business meeting. First I talked briefly with some of the guys at Paradigm Infinitum, Stephen's game store, and the I hung out with his friend Edward who gave me a lot of useful information on everything from drybrushes to stripping paint with Dettol.

Overall it was a great trip. You might say it was too short, but if I stayed any longer it would have hurt work in the studio. Its interesting -- if not for the abundant public holidays in Sri Lanka that mean we have to shut the studio, I'd never take any breaks at all!

The funny thing is, visiting Singapore felt like going home. A big, modern, multicultural city with all kinds of people - even the beer tasted right. For the first time, I found myself wondering whether I'd rather stay in Asia than go back to the US.

I talked to Robin about it, and he had the perfect answer, "the US is where my customers are, I have to be in the US."

If painted anime takes off -- who knows?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

And its back to work....

I hope you've had a good Sri Lankan New Year / Easter. Between visiting relatives and stuffing my face with goodies, I did manage to get some work done though. The get-stuff-done prize though go es to Luke. Let me tell you what he's been up to...

Jungle Terrain
It struck us that there is probably a market out there for affordable jungle terrain. Not many fancy paying $50 for a bundle of aquarium plants -- but would they pay $20 for enough to cover the terrain needs for an 8x4 table? $20 for re-assembled and painted plants?

The idea is Luke's and he's talked to a couple of stores that are interested in seeing what we can offer. I managed to pick up a small forest of aquarium plants before all the shops closed for the holday week, and next week I hope to have some pics up of some "test" plants.

Can we actually manage all that for just $20 for a whole table? I dunno... $50 for a whole table might be a better figure -- but then agin, I don't know yet. We'll have to make some prototypes, see how long the process takes, and hope we can make this so affordable that its a real solution to jungle gaming needs.

You'd think I'd be all about catachans, nids, and lizardmen storming over a leafy table, but actually, I'd more keen to on the pulp wargame possibilities. Eureka minis makes some pretty goofy pygmies and Pulp Figures ( has everything from Geman zeppelin troopers to the US Rocket Corps - not to mention a fantastic (and free) rule system that is pretty much immune to the killjoy of over-competitive gaming (it recommends that players wear funny hats, cause no one can take a rules lawyer seriously if he's got a fez on).

Prepainted Minis?
There's buzz about this here and there. is very keen on doing it, and I wish them luck. The problem though is that its unlikely that any patnership between a manufacturer and a painting service will be able to lead to 28mm, high quality, pre-painted miniatures, at pricing competitive with unpainted miniatures. Hero Clix is a step in the right direction, but its the casette tape stage of this product, when what we need is the re-writable DVD stage.

So here's the holy grail: Is is possible to manufacture and fully paint minis, and sell them to stores at prices low enough that they'll be competitive with unpainted minis, right there on the shelves? Can a company that can integrate both manufacturing and painting, manage this?

We put together a spreadsheet and ran some numbers. What we came up with was encouraging enough to results for me to say on this blog that we are now aiming:

- To manufacture and fully paint, "troop choice" infantry 28mm minis
- To have these minis match GW's sculpting quality
- Sell these to stores at the $3.50 a figure, at 40% off the retail price

As of all of Luke's networking efforts last week, we may very well be able to hit all three. In the long run, I think it not unreasonable to think that we could hit all three.

There are lot of directions we could go if we can manage that. Right now, a rather talented sculptor is working on some great coat infantry, complete with gas masks, spiked helmets, and long rifles. It seems a good market tester: GW Guard players may like some Steel Legion style variants to use as proxies, and pulp-players may quite like them.

Prepainted Bases
Not as earth shattering as prepainted minis, but an easy baby step. We're looking at selling them for $1 per base, and before we can go any further we need to test the market and see if people are interested in this product.

Things are looking up. I'm probably going to hire another painter next week -- I'm usually quite cautious about staffing levels, but we've got a staggering amount of work to get through and I'm adding 2-3 new clients a week now. One of the reasons I'm keen to work on our own terrain, minis, and bases is that it allows me to have higher staffing to do custom painting, and in quiet periods (of which we've had none) we can manufacture our own products.

Just recieved a shipment from Luke, which among other things, has a laser pointer in it. This will really help cut down on the arguments at games. The lads enjoy wargaming, but their sportsmanship scores could stand to rise...

Take care,


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Happy New Year!


We will be on vacation from the the 11th to the 17th for the Sri Lankan New Year.

I'll be fairly available during this period though, to handle email correspondences.

Take care, and best wishes for the New Year,


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lucas Como Joins

Lucas Como, who's Adepticon team's army appeared in US White Dwarf 311, has joined us as head of our US operation.

A little about Luke. He is the captain of Team BLOID, an Adepticon Team that won Best Appearance in 2005, is gunning very hard for 2006. He's known for taking appearance seriously: he presented an army list once made of stained glass, and he started the tradition of building display bases. This summer he will be appearance judging at various tournaments throughout the US. These pictures you see are unpublished images of Team BLOID's WD 311 army.

Luke is also a good friend who's been with us since we went live back in August '05. He's helped guide us up from a one-man show, to the 6 full time us staff we have today -- and adding about a painter a month now. He's mentored our quality up to what it is today, and has been my pulse on US wargaming since I left. We touch base almost daily.

A US Office
Luke now runs our little shipping hub in the US. We found that the USPS would not insure or register packages to Sri Lanka weighing more than a pound, unless it came by express mail. This is more expensive -- unless quite a large package is being sent. It becomes EVEN cheaper if that large package is a shared shipment covering several clients' minis -- so cheap that we're talking registered packages that get to us within a week, at less than regular shipping rates.

An added benefit, is that anyone shipping through the US hub doens't need to do any customs paperwork. We handle all that ourselves. All someone in the US needs to do to send us minis, is mail them to:

c/o Johnson and Assoc
1210 Towanda Ave #12
Bloomington IL 61701

And we'll handle the rest :) .


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We're Growing...

Greetings. Welcome to international business for the little guy.

Right now I am waiting for 2am my time, to call over a retailer in the UK to cancel an overdue order of French miniatures I had made for a client in Singapore. Meanwhile, I am shopping for paints from a store in Australia because its toolate for my US partner to get them in the next scheduled shipment. To tide themselves over, my painters are using the high end Vallejo Game Colors from Spain till the new GW lot comes in. It is at this moment that I realize I need to do my taxes. Uncle Sam's state and federal kind.

We're Growing
Business keeps on growing. I hired two new full time painters this month. The first one, Indika, just painted the nicest genestealer I've ever seen. We did it for $2, but the real satisfaction is in knowing how much more it's worth back to the UK. Indika plays Middenheimers in our shop Mordheim League, and sent my cousin's Possessed warband packing last week. The other new lad starts tomorrow.

It's very busy these days. Clients are placing repeat orders almost immediately. Sample orders are coming in now daily. At the end of each day we sit around like generals, planning the targets for the next day's painting, studying quality control numbers, tracking deadlines. We talk about what painting methods are being taught next, and what our feedback from clients has been.

The Value of Being a Professional Outfit
Things are definitely more complicated than they used to be. Each night, we plan out who we can put on what job - optimizing on skills and time. I've got the lads doing 4-sigma quality control, which is fantastically effective once they know what I'm looking for with a product. Everyone has a different set of responsibilities. Upul tracks brushes. Gayan tracks paint levels. Indika fixes all the rubbish from China we're saddled with (he tells me he does not get why we use the world's best modelling supplies, but the world's cheapest lights. I tell him its because when a lamp out here costs a dollar, once we have to throw away ten lamps to find one that works, I'll buy something made in Japan instead. So far, I'm winning -- but not by much).

The Value of Having Fun
We all work pretty hard, but we have a lot of fun too. Wednesday night is Mordheim night, and my Marienburger archers consistently get their asses handed to them. On one level its all fun and games, but on another its vital training: my painters understand their clients and care more about the work they do because they themselves have become wargamers One is making an 'Eavy Metal grade unit of Khorne Berserker conversions. Another is busy turning his Defiler's base into a diorama.

The Future
Will I get anywhere with this? Statistics says a resounding no. 9 out of 10 startups goes on to fail quit miserably, and this is my first business. So far though -- we've ridden out all kinds of mishaps and have 100% happy customers. If we can keep that up, well, that's all that really matters now, doesn't it?

Looking forward to a strong 2006,

Da Boss,