Warhammer, fantasy and famously awful lighting: capturing the generous spirit of a tabletop gaming expo

Held at an aviation museum, the Long Island Tabletop Gaming Expo sees gaming minutiae backdropped against colossal passions. Anthony Cosme documents each masterfully.

16 June 2022

If you’ve ever passed through the tinted doors of a Warhammer workshop, caught a peek at a painstakingly painted set of miniature game pieces – or like me, stuck your fingers together with superglue trying clumsily to join in – you know the excitement a glimpse into such a hobby can inspire. It’s not just the rush of satisfaction a small-scale collection can summon; it’s the look into a passion that doesn’t tend to shout to be seen. Readers can expect the same swell of joy and intrigue from Rules As Fun, a recent series from Anthony Cosme which documents the board gaming and roleplaying community at this year’s Long Island Tabletop Gaming Expo.

From how the New York-based photographer describes his outlook on photography, there doesn’t seem to be a more suited individual to the job. “Thematically, I’ve always tried to tie humour and ridiculousness into my work, but I think more than anything, I love to highlight the invisible. I’ve felt invisible in that way a lot in my life, and I’ve felt both good and bad about that.” Well aware of how easy it is “to lose sight of the individual”, Anthony started Rules As Fun as a New Years resolution to put more of himself into his work – including his childhood spent at gaming hobby shops – and in the hope of bringing individuals at such large scale events to the forefront.


Anthony Cosme: Rules As Fun (Copyright © Anthony Cosme, 2022)

But with roleplaying serving as a vital zone of personal imagination and escapism, Anthony was also apprehensive. “I was really nervous going into it because I grew up in these shops. I know people might not be into having their photo made.” The photographer adds, in a brilliant twist: “I could not have been more wrong.” Arriving early and doing laps past the dice sets, swords and action figures spanning the length of the aviation museum – the strangely colossal setting for the expo – Anthony remembers that just about everyone he asked “was thrilled to be photographed”. Not wanting to disturb the game masters and their three-hour stretches of world-building on one end of the expo, he happened across Alex (pictured in glasses below) in a timed miniature painting contest. “He was VERY patient with me”; “He told me he brought a whole set of stuff he had painted to display. It was a Warhammer army that he had painted to look like an 80s hair metal band.”

This kind of concentration and dedication is beautifully documented in Anthony’s final photographs – “I wanted it to feel like you could imagine what they were imagining.” But so too is the odd ethereality and quiet comfort of the expo. To counteract the “famously awful” quality of convention lighting, Anthony used both a heavy, harsh flash with a “slowish shutter speed”, bringing a sense of hypnotic intensity to things. Inspired by the behind-the-scenes shots for Star Wars, Rules For Fun also sees the aviation museum’s huge plane models dwarf tabletops full of one-inch tall winged forms and figures. And yet, amongst these bizarre sights, we’re still left thinking instead about the tales of warm generosity Anthony experienced from attendees – and how we should really dust off that old Star Wars lego set and give it another crack.

GalleryAnthony Cosme: Rules As Fun (Copyright © Anthony Cosme, 2022)

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Anthony Cosme: Rules As Fun (Copyright © Anthony Cosme, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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