I’ve seen this topic crop up a few times in recent weeks. On various message boards, there has been moaning on both sides of the argument regarding the painting side of the hobby, and I thought I’d chip in my two cents. I’ve mentioned it briefly before but this time I want to write a little more on the subject, and why, to me, painting your miniatures is a must.
First of all, do remember that you can tell me to get on my bike. You don’t have to take one bit of notice of what I’m going to say, but I’m still going to say it. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to leave a comment below (constructive preferred) or ignore the whole damn article.
The opponent that I dislike facing the most, is the unpainted horde. A hundred grey miniatures and not a drop of paint upon them. It’s awful. I loathe the very prospect. I’ve even heard of some players having special house rules to deal with this. In older editions, giving your army Hatred (Unpainted) was a popular one. I just used to say that if it wasn’t painted, you weren’t playing it on my table, but I always bent that rule for new players. They have an excuse, but the more long-in-the-fang gamers have none.
So why do I hate it? For me, a big part of the game is the thematic, almost cinematic nature of the battle. When I survey my 6×4 board and toy soldiers, I like to imagine that it’s a scene from an epic war film, and unpainted miniatures kill this for me. It’s like facing a load of training robots rather than a real enemy and it’s just not as fun.
I’m not the greatest painter in the world, but I practice a lot and I put a lot of effort into painting my miniatures to help me achieve this level of imagination-positive work. Now I do this because I enjoy painting, and I totally get that not everyone does. That’s cool, but many players don’t necessarily like having to remember complex tactics or exact rule wording in order to use their miniatures, but they put the effort in.
That’s the trade off, I guess. We have a set of rules and the game pieces, and technically, that is all we need. However, there are standards within that, are there not? I could turn up to play someone with the rule book and my relevant codex and spend hours looking things up each turn. I could turn a three hour game into a six hour game just because I own the rules so therefore, I don’t need to memorise them. I have access to them, and that’s all I need. As frustrating as it is for my opponent, I can tell him that ‘sorry, I spent my money to buy the rules, but I don’t need to memorise them because I don’t really like doing that’. To me, there’s no difference there to someone saying they don’t like painting and so they’re not going to paint, even if it affects the way you enjoy the game.
It’s about mutual respect. You wouldn’t turn up for a date having not washed for three days and saying ‘well, all you need is right here, so what are you complaining about?’, right? In the same way someone doesn’t turn up to a pick up or tournament game with a codex still in the wrapper saying ‘it’s alright, I’ll read it as we go along’. This hobby is, for most people about the two different elements – painting and playing. Most people lean one way or the other, and so don’t run the risk of disrespecting your opponent by either not knowing your rules, or by playing with unpainted miniatures.
And most primarily-painting-orientated hobbyists will tell you that it’s better to have three colours down than none at all. And if anyone tells you that your painting sucks, tell them they suck. The overwhelming majority of the painting community wouldn’t dream of doing something like that (even if they thought it) and it’s only a small number of squigg-brains who are dicks about it.
What’s more, in the same way that I can ask people for tactical advice because, while I am more painting-orientated, I still like to win the odd game, if you’re more gaming orientated and you’d like your army to look better, ask a painter for some tips. There are ways to quickly paint things and ways to make things look better for very little money or time investment. You won’t win Golden Demon with those skills, but hell, I’m not going to win Golden Demon any time soon and I’ve been painting miniatures for ages! We all like good games and good looking armies, so how about we help each other out here? A coat of wash and a quick drybrush will take you seconds and will make a big difference.
Of course, many of us are both painter and gamer, and in truth I haven’t run into a grey horde player in a very long time. Just remember that in this game, you should always show respect for your opponent. Whether that means learning your rules or painting your miniatures, it’s worth doing, and there’s no problem asking for help.
But, hey. If you don’t like painting your miniatures, and you’re in a group that doesn’t mind facing a grey horde, then don’t worry about it. I’ll promise you this though – even with a basic paintjob, your enjoyment of the game will go up.
I hope that’s set my position out. Certainly not trying to have a go at anyone, and I totally get that those of us not interested in painting don’t want to paint. But mutual respect and enjoyment is such a big part of this hobby – if not the best part, and I hold it to be true that just as painters should spend time learning rules, gamers should spend a little bit of time throwing colour down. And I want more of those big, epic, cinematic war zone vistas – I can’t imagine that my opponents wouldn’t like this too.
Hopefully-not-a-rant over. 😉 What about you? Do you mind facing grey plastic armies? Or do refuse to play the unpainted? Interested to know, so stick a comment below. Onwards!
Personally, I never play with unpainted models. I just can’t do it. This has lead to some pretty noncompetitive armies at times, but it has also inspired some of my mates (who would otherwise have never picked up a paintbrush) to give painting a red-hot go. I consider that “objective secured” :o)
Good work, Marc. I know what you mean – I too only play with painted miniatures so it usually takes a while before I can have a big game with a new army, but I get by on skirmishes and the reward is all the sweeter for the effort. Nice one.
Count me as another “play it painted” fellow. Although for me it tends to be easier to do that because I almost always paint them off the base to begin with so they aren’t really playable until they’re painted!
I tend to hit a middle ground here to be honest.
First and foremost like you I’m a painter who enjoys gaming, not the other way round. However, I’m also a massive painting butterfly as anyone who’s read my blog will attest. What that means is I often don’t have a fully painted army to use. So basically, my view is that so long as I can see someone making painting progress, I can live with a few unfinished models.
Not at tournaments though, those armies should be 100% finished!
I’m pretty relaxed with this to be honest. What’s more important to me is the overall attitude of my opponent, and following on from that is how I feel about facing the state of their army.
My personal distaste is for a certain kind of player who plays simply to win. I used to have to play against such a person a few years ago. Every army was bought on Ebay, and no effort was made to improve the state of the models. Therefore, there would not be any kind of colour coherency, nor a single fully painted figure, and undercoat would be poorly applied. WYSIWYG was an alien concept. Army rules were deliberately misinterpreted to gain advantages, and the game rules were merely guideline.
I don’t exaggerate here either. To me, facing grey plastic is far more preferable than reliving that experience ever again.
What I do like more than anything is if myself, and whoever my opponent is, have made progress on our armies since we last had a battle.
I do much prefer when both players are using painted armies, it just looks so much nicer on the table (plus it helps with my battle reports).
Painted miniatures perform better, don’t they?
Not the first time you use them after they’re painted 😉
Immutable law of gaming: Your freshly painted, new favourite model gets the ‘alpha strike’ in its first outing. And you go home, and you cry and you want to die.
I vastly prefer having painted Models on both sides of the board, but where I live, I don’t really have the option to be picky about who I play, so I’ll take what I can get without complaint.
I have also run unpainted stuff myself on occasion, usually when there was something brand new that I can’t get done in time for my game, or just ridiculous and requiring proxies or more of something than I have painted. That’s only ever at home, tho. If I’m going in to a shop or event to play, it’s all going to be painted and based.
Las minis pintadas matan más. You can translate this as Painted miniatures kill more enemies. I like painting a i like painted armies. I always try to play with painted models, but if my miniatures are unpainted when playing they are given the cursed grey rule. That is: any unpainted squad must roll a dice before doing anything. on a 5+ they do nothing.
Well said, sir. If someone doesn’t want to paint, there’s always boardgames. And I like you bend the rules a bit for noobs.