Polar Vortex 2023

Polar Vortex's Miniature Painting & Modeling Competition

Open System Event

This year Polar Vortex will further integrate the ‘Open System’ format of the Military Miniature Society of Illinois. This system does not use as many categories one normally finds in most painting competitions. Instead of a focus on the subject matter being entered, the Open System focuses more on the type of modeling being presented.

The Open System is designed to recognize and reward modelers of all skill levels and is based on the conceptual goal that no deserving work should go home unrewarded.

Competition Rules and Regulations:


Painters Division

The Painters Division is for figure models where the primary focus is on the painting aspects of the models entered. Secondary consideration goes to creativity and workmanship. Single figure models that are unmodified or “stock” belong in this division. This does not mean that scratch built, customized or modified models are excluded, however entries will be judged as if they are painted stock commercial castings, and the primary focus being on the painting skill.

Open Division

The open division is for customized, modified, or scratch built (sculpted) models. All aspects of the entry are judged: creativity, difficulty, painting skill, presentation, and workmanship. Consider how high you feel your entry can score in each aspect. If the painting skill is primarily the best than this entry may be better placed in the Painters Division.​

Diorama Division

This division is for any model(s) on a scenic base where the entrant is telling a story, a “moment in time” to the viewers. Models may be stock and/or modified. Scenic features and details can be scratch built and/or stock accessories. Judging includes how well the story has been presented (creativity and presentation), as well as difficulty, painting skill and workmanship.​

Vehicle/Ordnance Division

This division is for those entries where the primary focus is on vehicles and/or other mechanical subjects. A figure or figures may be present, but the focus is on the hardware. Since these entries may often be kits, the judging will primarily focus on painting skill and workmanship with a secondary focus on difficulty and presentation.​

Youth Division

Entries in this division must be 14 years old or under. Entries may be placed in any division that fits best. The judging of these exhibits take into account the entrant’s age, and their awards are separate.

Entry Size Limitation Exhibits have a limitation on size. No entry may be larger than 24” cubed.


The Open System is less competitive in nature and the number of awards given are expandable, no piece wins an award at the expense of another. Each entrant’s work is individually evaluated and receives the level of award the judges feel that their work deserves. There is no limit to the number of awards. Entries in the Painters, Open, Vehicle/Ordnance and Diorama Divisions may be awarded a Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention. Only Certificates of Merit and Medal(s) of Excellence may be awarded in the Youth division.

Best of Show

Best of Show is chosen by combined vote of judges and entrants. Each entrant is invited to cast one vote for their choice for Best of Show. Judges each cast three votes for their choice. The number of judge votes may be reduced and will never amount to more than 25% of the total.

Best Displayer Award

Best Displayer Awards are for the imaginative use of materials and techniques to set off an exhibitor’s display. The quality of the exhibited work itself is not considered.

Theme Award

This award goes to the best exhibit from any division centered on the theme for the Convention. This theme will vary from year to year.

Sponsored Awards

These awards will vary from year to year. They are given to the exhibits that best fits the sponsor-defined category and are the best of all qualifying exhibits for that defined category.

If you are a store, manufacturer, or organization and would be interested in sponsoring this year’s painting competition, please email info@polarvortex.games.

Judging Criteria


Consideration starts with the casting as a beautifully detailed and well proportioned figure is plainly easier to cope with than one which must be extensively re-worked to bring it up to standard. While intricately painted detail is impressive the subtle shading of long flowing robes with no detail at all can be equally challenging, and larger figures are often harder to paint than smaller ones.

For Conversions, the amount of conversion work attempted becomes the key factor. A minor conversion would consist of only a small change, one in which the original design is plainly evident. A major conversion involves extensive reworking of the pose and/or other features but the original design can discerned albeit with difficulty.

Dioramas and vignettes, present other problems as well, ones of design, of carrying an idea across to the viewer, creating a desired mood, composing a scene with a smooth flow of action and effective use of the available space. The sheer number of figures, while sometimes a minor factor, should not in itself carry much weight.


Creativity comes into consideration in the use of original color schemes, free hand designs and other elements painted onto the mini that were not part of the original sculpt, as well as subject, setting, lighting (if any) and the additional factors involved with the miniature(s). For conversions and original sculpts imagination plays an important role, primarily in the selection of subject and pose.


This reflects the technical execution of the non-painting efforts and focuses on getting the miniature ready to paint, removing mold lines, smoothing out pitted surfaces, sharpening of detail, how well the conversion has been executed, ensuring modified joints are smooth, altered clothing and equipment are restored and well defined, and new detail work is neat and precisely rendered.

Painting Skill

Painting skill is undoubtedly the single most important criteria. The neatness of detail and the subtlety of shading are important considerations. Painting style is separate from competent technique which is the primary factor to determining if the painting is skillfully done.

Presentation/Overall Effect

The first part of the criteria is straight forward, concerning itself with base, groundwork and any other elements “presenting” the piece. The base and groundwork are not trivial considerations, poor basing and groundwork can undermine a positive impression of the model. Overall Effect is recognition of the intangible aspect of modeling, that “feeling of life” which cannot be traced to any particular element of its construction, but is clearly evident when the piece is viewed as a whole.