Friday, June 15, 2012

Requirement for Painted Armies

One thing I have noticed at recent tournaments that I’ve attended is the presence of unpainted or just undercoated armies (or bottles).

Most players packs (my own included) state that models must be painted to a three colour minimum to be used at an event. However this does not seem to be being enforced – again I include some of the events I organise as guilty in this regard.

I’m going to state here that I believe this should be enforced and - in the case of any events I organise e.g. Fields of Blood, Skitterleap, NZ Masters – will be enforced.

Why? Two key reasons.

The first is respect for your opponent. If I have painted and army (or had an army painted) then I expect to face armies of least a minimum standard across the table. The game is part of a visual hobby and those aspects are a key part of at least some people’s hobby experience. Painting an army to the minimum standard does not take long – I have painted 60 zombies in three evenings – to a better than tabletop standard. Wargamers are great procrastinators as a rule and unless there is a incentive/penalty then for some the painting would never get done.

The second reason is that it encourages people to utilise builds that they would never consider if they had to paint the models included (or pay for them to be painted). Want to bring 11 Venoms – buy them and paint them; a 100 rat slave unit sounds a good idea – then three colours please (a couple of nights work); etc.

Most events offer painting points that recognise the minimum acceptable standard yet we still see people not meeting it. On the basis that the carrot hasn’t worked then there needs to be a stick (or reverse-carrot for the PC amongst you). The best carrot is the ability to participate but that requires enforcement of minimum standards.

There can be grey areas – where do proxies, unit fillers and conversions fit in this? For mine unit fillers are fine if they are proportional to the size of a unit. As long as they remain under a third of the unit in terms of base size I suspect you’d have few problems with most TOs. Conversions are clearly different from proxies in that they should be a recognisable as part of the “new” army rather than just a swap from their original source. For instance, I class my Warp Lightning Cannon based on the Steam Tank as a conversion rather than a proxy. Proxies for me are models taken from other armies or sources purely for the purpose of representing in the short term the required models. Where it gets grey is when the models come from a non-GW source. Here it is hard to have exhaustive written rules. Generally it comes down to the “sniff test”. Bit like cheese – hard to define but you know it when you’ll see it.

If you’ve read this far, great. You’ll see up above I differentiated between painted and unpainted armies, not between armies you paint yourself and armies you didn’t paint. Why? Because it is not relevant IMO. The rationale for requiring painted armies is given above – respect for your opponents and a commitment to your build. To satisfy these you need to make a commitment either in time or in cash, either way there is a cost.

So if you are coming to Fields, Skitterleap or the Masters and your army is not painted to the standards given in the Players Pack, then you need to schedule in some painting time – either personally or from another source.


  1. Pete, I'm not sure a reverse-carrot is very PC...

  2. Good article, and I agree with the gist of it.
    IF I ever took part in a tournament or competitive wargaming I would certainly agree with you about wanting to play against someone who has an army painted to a minimum standard.
    On the other hand, let's not oversimplify things...
    "Painting an army to the minimum standard does not take long – I have painted 60 zombies in three evenings – to a better than tabletop standard."
    By which I mean, not that you didn't really do it, but that I THINK this is a rare ability, especially if it is "to a better than tabletop standard".
    (Yeah, you guessed it, I am writing half out of jealousy as to your ability to do that!)
    Thanks again for the interesting post!

    1. With the new GW foundations (or whatever they call them these days) and washes, its not a rare ability at all. Clean Basecoat, wash with Earthshade. done.

      Hell with certain armies, you can just go 2 washes of whatever colour over white undercoat, touch up the details, done... Daemons seem to be pretty default painted this way these days.

    2. And that's exactly how I did it.

      Two/Three layers on flesh (drybrush), basecoat of other colours, single highlight, Agrax wash then Baal wash where necessary.

      Mixed sand basing....static grass and silfor edging on bases....magnetic strip on base bottom.

      By end of weekend I'll have 90 perfectly servicable Mantic Zombies

  3. You would have thought that a substantial "bonus" for painted armies (in practice a penalty for unpainted ones) would be sufficient, but it seems not. I guess players who don't rate themselves a chance to place don't care if they drop 20 points straight off the bat (as is the case with the events we run).

    I guess it might be time to consider the anti-carrot for some of our local events as well.

  4. I have to say I am definately one of the people guilty of this, one plus side of the "bottle-gate" thing was that I looked at it and went damn thats not really on, then looking at my part basecoated, part painted army thinking.... shit! I hadn't really considered it properly from the point of view of my opponent (which I should have).

    I had hoped to have this remedied before going to any more tournaments anyway but this just gives me added incentive to get going. I like to swap my armies around but for the next tournament if I am going to get enough done in time I will have to stick to a painting schedule and just paint what I need, due to my painting schedule having already been diverted to the Clan Moulder army I was preparing for Warhammer Achievements this may mean if I am to sign up for the Warlords Tournament I might have to expand my planned Moulder Army to 2400 points, then I decided maybe that wasn't such a bad thing either you don't see many rat ogre armies nowadays, good job special characters are allowed :)

    Thinking about it the only real problem I see is that the army would be broken before I start on the Blood & Glory mission as none of my (planned) units would be able to take a standard. I will have to give it some thought. I know that if I change it to my more standard core of 2 units of clanrats & a couple units of slaves I will not get 160+ clanrat/slaves painted in time. I know you may be able to paint 60 zombies in 3 evenings but I honestly don't know if I just suck or I'm simply painfully slow but I cannot do anywhere close to that. Part of the problem is I come across some things which I know what I want to do but have no idea of how to implement the techniques to produce that result which results in me either putting that particular model aside to come back to later or I go searching online for how to video's and delay myself there.

    Anyway I have resolved to have a painted army at any future event I attend, the quality of the painting may not be great but bear in mind that while a model may look like it's been painted by a six year old that probably took me 3 painstaking days so don't take the piss or I might cry ;)


    1. And honestly Dave that's what I hoped would happen :-)

  5. Non-painted I dont mind - but at least undercoat your models. The one thing that really bugs me in this area are players who dont have movement trays.

  6. I think that “Bottle-gate” really lit the flames.

    Prior to that I thought it was just me and as always I needed to be careful to impose my preferences on the community. However the strength of feeling around the bottle ogres was a real surprise. People were serious about not playing against the army and defaulting if drawn against it. This persisted to a lesser extent on Sunday when it was replaced by the Buddha Ogres (I played these at Masters and they didn’t really bother me but it appears I was in the minority).

    I know I get far more enjoyment when I play nicely painted armies – e.g. Graeme Fry’s High Elves and Glen Tibbles WoC at Nicon – but I’m happy if some effort has been made. Tabletop quality is not a high hurdle and I believe that it is important for the wider tournament community’s enjoyment tat it is enforced as a minimum.

  7. Yes, couldn't agree more, even though I'm sounding like a hypocrite. I've been slowly painting my army through the tournaments (I try my best to blame school and sports but I know thats not true...), and keeping count of what I have left and such (currently 28 models left!) I mean there not nearly as nice as your guys' and what I've seen, but I think it would be fare to say that I go for a clean look?

    But yes, when playing the army across from me, I would at least like to see Black or white figs, no grey.

  8. I strongly believe that armies at tournaments should be painted. Looking across the table at an unpainted army considerably lessens the gaming experience, and is hardly inspiring.

    Now admit that I may be baised, as most of my tournament gaming experience was back in the 80's and 90's when it was mandatory to field a painted army. When I came back to play after a six year plus break I was surprised to see that the painting requirement had been relaxed considerably. Personally I would never field an unpainted model, let alone army, for any game I play. There is nothing like a tournament deadline to get those extra models painted.

    Needless to say I would have refused to play against the bottle army. To call it a bad joke is being kind. It even surpasses the lego amy that appeared at one NatCon.

    Have no problems with non GW models being used as long as they are clearly representative of the intended model. Given my advancing age and corresponding failing of any short term memory there is nothing worse than having to remember your opponents models and what they actually represent thoroughout the game.

    That's my 2 cents worth. Apologises if I have offended anyone with non painted models in their army. But there is nothing more inspiring than watching two well painted armies battle across the gaming board, especially if accompanied with excellent terrain, such as we see at the Wgtn tournaments.


  9. Making people have painted armies is good because of it I have most of my figures painted (above average or below in my case but I try ) but as said earlier people need movement trays as well because watchng someone moving 30 to 40 figures slows down the game and working out movement is more difficult

  10. I agree with having a minimum 3 colour, based and flocked levels of painting.

    I don't agree with the huge points variance obtainable between a minimum table top standard, and a masterclass painted army.

    I do have a major issue with unit fillers - mainly around ones so big that the player cannot adjust the models into the required rank formations when they wish to reform. If your unit filler alone can't physically fit through the gap between the forest and the swamp, why should I pretend that it can?

    Petty? Perhaps. But in a game where millimetres count, I believe this is too much to expect.

    And I definitely don't think that you should have extra painting points just because you have them.


  11. I don't think this issue is so, errr, "black and white".
    I totally agree that it is much more pleasant to play with and against well painted armies complete with good looking movement trays. I think it is something that we all should aspire to, and from what I have seen the majority of us do just that.
    However, there also needs to be some room to encourage newcomers in and to enjoy playing tournaments. A fully painted army complete with glossy movement trays is a big ask for beginners. Painting models for a beginner takes time. They do not have the skills or the confidence to paint quickly and accurately. Making movement trays is, quite frankly, a pain up the backside because you are still experimenting on how many models to place in units and wheter they should be 5 wide, 6 wide , 7 wide or horde. I always used to use pieces of cardboard.

    To encourage newcomers I think you need to relax the painting rules at times. Stipulating that you cannot enter a tournament without a fully painted army makes some tournaments feel a bit elitist for newcomers and can put them off.
    The relaxation of the painting rules happened a few years ago when the attendance at tournaments had dropped off. Now the numbers have gone back up again are we going to shut the door on newcomers? I hope not.

    I'm not syaing that all tournaments should have relaxed painting rules, but some tournaments should to allow people to work there way up to a fully painted army. The Masters for example should be fully painted, but something like Vermintide designed to encourage newbies should have a much more relaxed requirement.

    I like the beauty pageant part of tournaments, it gives all players a chance to look at what can be achieved and they have certainly given me some ideas on what I might like to achieve (if only I had the skills.


    1. To a point Neil.

      The problem is that there are some gamers who are quite happy to continue with an unpainted or unfinished army infinitum. If they aren't given an incentive - the ability to play - then they will continue to use a 'work in progress".

      Ten years ago it was "no paint, no play" and those of us coming into the hobby coped. We worked at painting our armies so we could participate.

      I guess I'm more hardline. I don't think we have to wrap "Little Timmy" up in cotton wool. It's a life want the reward, you do the work. There is no reason given 2-3 months lead-in to an event that the person wants to attend, they can't have three colours only their models.

      I don't see that as elitist - rather a key part of the tournament experience.

  12. 3 colours isn't a particularly big ask though and most tournaments that I have been at this year (40k) have had fairly generous paint judging (i.e its easy to get full points, favourite army votes is what separates things).

    Personally I'm a fan of 'your army must be fully painted (and by that I mean 3 colours + based) to win any competitive (not spot) prizes', which is slightly more relaxed than simply '3 colours or you can't play'. This means you can still get people attending with incomplete armies, but it puts the motivation back on the player to get their army painted so they can actually win stuff (which is tends to be a good motivator). At the Auckland Open I also had an extra rule in there stating that anything not painted gets removed as a casualty at the end of the game. The idea with this rule was to punish lazy people who didn't put in any effort and show up with 90% of there stuff unpainted, but isn't going to hurt you too badly if you run out of time to paint a couple of random dudes. This would work pretty well in Fantasy as well since it forces people to finish the majority of their units properly otherwise they can end up with panic tests at the end of the game.

    1. It's a two part thing though Robert. And none of this is directed at you (I've no idea what levels your army is)

      The point of view is giving the incentive to do something for their own benefit - win prizes and trophies. There is another aspect - respect for your opponent.

      In this sense, it is not about prizes and trophies rather its ensuring that you don't detract from their enjoyment.

      People don't like playing unpainted armies. Why should they pay an entry fee to bare or undercoated plastic. IMO it's a shit experience.

      All it takes is a little effort. Charlie painted his Necrons in a week and he painted another players GK army in a weekend.

      It may mean not going out to the movies or out on the lash one night a week for 2-3 months to get it done. But I can guarantee you that it won't get done if the effort is not put in :-)

  13. The problem i have is that in some tournaments (not going to point fingers) the painting scores are based on a 0 = unpainted, 15 = The best painted army ever. Your army can be tabletop standard and not get full points which in my opinion is ridiculous.

    I'm not very good at painting, and don't enjoy it but I can put together a tabletop standard army, this should give me maximum points. I shouldn't be punished because I don't have the ability to paint to an exceptional standard.

    1. Nor should you be penalised.

      But neither should you benefit - here defined as participation - when even the most basic effort (tabletop standard)doesn't occur.

      The vast majority of NZ events of the past few years have had a minimum painting standard coupled with Players Choice for the exceptional.

      The minimum standard was put in place so people who can't paint or don't want to spend time painting weren't disadvantaged. What has been occuring more recently is an increase in participating armies that fail to even make the minimum required effort.

      It's up to other TOs what they want or do at their events. If I'm taking the time to organise an event the participants can take the time to paint their armies (or arrange to have them painted).

      For Fields I even sent out a checklist two months ago telling participants how their armies will be marked. As a result they should be able to predict their own score prior to the event.

  14. Damn, I should have found time to ask you to check over my Dark Eldar at NiCon to point out how the army could get max points at Fields.

    1. The checklist sent out is pretty straightforward. Ask one of your mates to mark your army. You'll soon identify any areas you can improve. And remember you only need 36 out of 45 marks to max out.

  15. Painting at tournaments should come down to either two options:

    1) Minimum standard (3 colours + based), with no painting points.

    2) Minimum of undercoat and have painting points. A completely undercoated army should get 0 points but an army painted with care should get max points (Nb: (IMO) It should be noted an army does not need to be extremely well painted to get full points, but just an average or slightly above). Also the paint points should reflect other elements of the hobby such as conversions, theme and centrepieces. But it should also mean that you do need to fulfil all sections of the paint marking to get max points.

    IMO, about 90%+ of armies should get most points or close to from my own tournament experience. From most tournaments I have been to the total tournament points comes down from battle and sports (as most tournaments seem to use option 1). As most people seem to get max sports points it comes down purely down to battle and IMO does not entirely reflect the entire hobby.

    I believe the aim of option 2 should be twofold, one to penalise an unpainted army and two to reward most players who put ‘average’ effort in to their models.

    1. First of all guys, if you are posting comments can you attach your name. It makes it a lot more convivial to deal with a person rather than "Anonymous".

      Secondly, I don't think TOs "should" do anything it is up to the individual TO to do what he wants - people can choose to attend or not.

      Again I think that the point is being missed. It is not necessarily about the player with the non-painted or undercoated army. It's about his opponent. A lot of people don't like playing non-painted armies. If the event says all armies MUST be painted to a minimum standard then they quite rightly have the expectation they will play against painted armies.

      They might not care one iota that the player is penalised, they have had part of their enjoyment spoiled because they came along expecting to play painted armies and they get grey plastic.

      It comes down to the tournie rules. If it says painted army you bring a painted's not optional. There will be other events with more relaxed criteria....or you can paint your army like the other 90% :-)

  16. Hey,

    One perspective that Pete's touched on is how much of a shared experience the hobby is:
    Including making some mates and banter painting is part of this-

    You spend most of your time looking across the table at your opponents army not your own. And visa versa. If you don't do things to standard it's punishing your opponents sense of the game quite a bit.

    For example I find I can actually quite enjoy being horribly crushed by a bad arse monster or army when painted, it evokes truly a cinematic feeling. (what could my noble infantry do against such ancient evil?)

    On the other hand being crushed by a list where the opponent is just taking something because it's powerful and proxied or unpainted is a rather soulless experience. It feels like they may have forgotten their opponent. It's not a mathematical model, or a computer game, it's a game based on model soldiers.

    Painting an army is truly an epic experience in itself (even 3 colours and a wash). Personally I can't help but be bonded to a force when creating it. I have some experience creating armies now, but I find seeing even a new hobbyists force painted and arrayed for battle a truly inspiring site, as hobbyists we know the dedication it takes.

    For gamers now their is a wealth of tools - coloured spray cans, new paints, online tutorials. Online communities (even white dwarf). To get an army to a table top standard you don't have to be an artist- you need a bit of patience to hone a craft. I feel like painting an army is still a big effort, but it's certainly easier than it was.

    Peace love and painted armies.