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a wargaming blog (plus some other stuff)

Playing it Painted

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A few weeks ago someone at club asked “do you only play with painted models?”. At the time I brushed off the question with a quick answer and tried not to sound like an elitist snob.

The fact is, due to the influence of some very good friends, when our club back in Basingstoke, the Sad Muppet Society, was setup, we all played with fully painted armies all the time. I think in hindsight this was because the game was secondary to the story told through the game, so that visualization was really important to us.

And as a bit of a sucker for narrative, this included me too.

In addition to this, and quite typically for Games Workshop games, the hobby, the painting, converting, modelling side, were all really important to us. Of course there is also a degree of pride seeing an army built and painted on the tabletop. It just looks ‘right’.

The Paladins of Titan

This pretty much sums up why I use painted, finished models. I like the stories they tell. I like the spectacle of a fully painted army. And yes, I do also have some pride in my work and it’s great to think “I built that” when looking at your army.

“do you only play with painted models?”

It also has to be said, for me, I’m pretty sure nothing would get painted without this informal rule. Playing stuff painted is also a big driver for getting stuff painted.

Warmachine and Warhammer have very different cultures in this regards. For example, I do not think I have attended a Warhammer 40000 tournament that did not require fully painted armies. And often, painting, converting, and even basing of models contributed to your tournament result. While these ‘soft’ don’t sit well with serious competitive players, I always use to like them. As someone who is never likely to win best painted army, these soft scores as a good way to recognise the time and effort put into well painted force.

Warmachine on the other hand places more emphasis on the game than the hobby. This makes fully painted armies the exception rather the rule. This seemed a little bizarre at first because Warmachine requires a lot fewer models than Warhammer 40000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battle.

However the more I have played Warmachine and Hordes, the more complexity becomes apparent. Warmachine is a game that invites experimentation and trying new things, and the culture regarding painted models reflects this. This isn’t to say there are not many fantastically painted Warmachine armies (or a great many silver/grey Warhammer armies), but at an organised play level there is less Warmachine stuff finished in tournaments.

“Warmachine on the other hand places more emphasis on the game than the hobby”

So does playing painted all the time models make me an elitist snob in Warmachine, or even Warhammer circles? Possibly, however it is a conscious choice for me, and one that rewards my hobby time and effort with game time.

Does this also mean I sometimes shoot myself in the foot by taking suboptimal units and models? Err yes, definitely, all the time. But the flip side is that I also learn to use what I have first before moving onto the new shiny things.

From a practical point of view, I tend to also paint a lot of miniatures (especially larger models) in pieces, assembling them after. And even when I don’t paint stuff in bits, I hate having to patch half‐painted models if they get knocked during games.

And it seems I am not alone in wanting to only play painted stuff. Over at Muse on Minis they have a Play it Painted 2013 campaign where hobbyists pledge a certain number of models to paint every month. Even our little club started a similar scheme at the beginning of the year, although in fairness that has kind of fallen by the wayside as life has got in the way.

15 points Nemo


I have seen the subject provoke very passionate discussions between different hobbyists regardless of their gaming background. Some people only ever want to play with and against painted armies, and for some the painting aspect of the hobby is a massive pain and getting in the way of gaming.

The funny thing is, I am now far more relaxed about playing against unpainted armies. This sort of thing used to really bug me, but I think as I’ve got older and more pragmatic, I have come to accept that my hobby priorities are not everyone else’s priorities. Of course two fully painted armies facing one another is a fine sight to behold, but sometimes reality gets in the way. The primary reason for gaming, is to have fun, so if painting isn’t your thing, so be it.

But in terms of my hobby, I fully intend to only play my armies painted, and if anyone else has a problem with that, well tough!

One thought on “Playing it Painted

  1. Well, I only use painted minis to play. The visual effect is part of the fun for me, so that is an imperative.

    Playing virtually exclusively historical games, some of the stresses of “new and shiny” syndrome are taken away, so you do not always have to paint as much. Although looking at some periods… WWII Germans mean so many different tanks and Napoleonics require tons of minis anyway, so that can be a massive task after all.

    One thing I find funny is the 40K comment you made. I have not played in any tournaments, but looking at the ones at shows I have attended, unpainted armies seem to have been the majority. I always guessed that it was people having trouble to keep up with the ever changing codices and spending all their time converting to stay in line with WYSIWYG.

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