Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Painting Scores At Tournaments

One of the pieces of feedback to come out of the recent Horned Rat was some disquiet over the painting scores. There was a school of thought that there wasn't sufficient variation between the scores to reflect the variation in painting quality.

The basis for painting scores at Fields of Blood events over the past few years has been the premise that everyone wants to play against a fully painted army that meets certain minimum standards - the standard tabletop tournament army. The rationale for this is that we are involved in a hobby game and that this hobby aspect is a major part of the attraction for most players. However the tournament is not a painting competition and as long as you achieve a certain standard then it shouldn't impact your results.

Now this basis is significant. It means people can borrow or buy armies without being advantaged or disadvantaged. It definitely raises the minimum standard - meaning participants are encouraged to make the necessary effort to achieve the full score but are not disadvantaged if they can't achieve 'Eavy Metal standard. There is a school of thought that it also reduces the top end of the spectrum as there are no additional points on offer and instead that competition is transferred to Best Painted, Best Presented or Players' Choice or whatever the painting prize is called at the event.

When marking painting I use a variation of the Adepticon system that I first saw 5-6 years ago. This has a set number of points for painting e.g. 36 but there are 45 points on offer. Therefore as long as you have a fully painted, based army with movement trays you will achieve full painting marks. Implementing this scheme I believe has been instrumental in improving the minimum painting standards in the local scene.

However such a scheme needs to punish those armies that don't meet this threshold and I think that there was some evidence that that didn't occur at Horned Rat - all but one army scored full points and the exception got what many felt was a very charitable score. That however comes down to the individual judge marking the armies and how they decide to implement the painting system they use.

It did get me thinking about the wider scoring and the comment from some that they would prefer to see more variation at the top end. This is easily achieved. With 15 points for painting you could award 10 points for having an army that meets tabletop tournament standard with the other 5 points awarded for higher achievement. However you need to determine whether those points are based on standard of army or on painting skill. With the later how do you reconcile armies not painted by the player, be they purchased or painted by someone else.

As a TO I have a vested interest in an event being as inclusive as possible, while as a player I personally would be disappointed if someone got an advantage for work that was not their own OR was disadvantaged if they were excluded from all the points on offer. However I am interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.

My solution is to increase the number of painting trophies at future events to reward those that do make the extra effort. Of course these would be restricted to armies that were player's own efforts. The intention is to reward those that go the extra step and hope that wider recognition encourages more competition.


  1. Given that everyone gets perfect sports, and 99% of people get perfect paint score the Wellington scene is basically decided by battlepoints.

    I personally like the fact that the "soft scores" are there as expectations around presentation and behavour...not a way to ride up the table.

    If if was to change, I am very conscious of the "borrowed army/painted by someone else" army boosting people's scores.

    I know the usual argument is "you need either time or money and since time is money = commission paint jobs are fine", but to me a painting score/reward needs to recognise individual effort...otherwise it is not celebrating the hobby...just the wallet.

    More non-ranking affecting rewards (ie trophies etc) seems the fairer approach if changing the approach.

    Joel v

  2. I'd like more spread, hard to implement without being subjective/soft score, and opening the door for dickmoves (Rate your opponents paintjob, 1-5.. and then Pete goes around and offers people a bar of chocolate if they give Graeme a 1)... obviously not based on real life events, but all paint jobs are not equal. Or people losing their shit with a TO because he interprets something differently.. "It looks like shit" .. "I know, but I painted it to look exactly like shit, and it was really difficult".

    Other option is a hard score, but even then, I could use all the techniques another guy did, and it'd still look like a modern art splatters compared to his Van Gough, but I could claim, and would expect all the points on offer.

    Its not being solved because its pretty hard to solve. Offering more prizes is an idea but what really motivates people (who are not natural painters) is that overall podium, and that is where the carrot must lie.

  3. I agree that a painting system should be there just to encourage players to meet a minimum standard. You should not be disadvantaged in a tournament just because you paint like Kandinsky.

    However, I am comforted by your comments about the event being inclusive. I entered Fields of Blood last year with the express goal of winning Best Presentation and didn't care if I came last in the actual tournament as long as I had fun (which I did). The Best Presentation award covers this aspect of the tournament adequately. I would like to see more accolades for people with cool conversions, unusual paint schemes and funky display boards. But I think you incorporate this aspect into Best Presentation anyway, don't you?

  4. Personally I like the current system. I am one of those players who just doesn't find the painting side of the hobby grabs me. I appreciate the impact of a nice painted & based army on the tabletop and that it effects others. I don't enjoy painting personally, for me it's a chore to be done if I want to participate in tournaments. If I had the spare cash I would have had someone else paint my Skaven.

    I have a new army that I am slowly collecting and I am seriously considering outsourcing the painting based on how long it has taken me to get any traction with the Skaven. It is a much smaller army so in terms of costs to get someone else to paint it it would be much more reasonable.

    It's my choice if I want to take the time to paint it myself and have it to a basic tabletop standard or pay someone else to get a really nice looking army. However I would expect to be able to take either army to a tournament and not be penalised for taking the self painted one (as long as it met all requirements). If it got to the point where the bought one gave me a 5-10 point bonus I wouldn't be happy or if I end up in a position where my options are to pay someone who can paint better than me or just take a points hit at every tournament I would probably stop going to tournaments which were ran under that system.

    If it's a system where we say to people "I know you've spent a lot of time & effort on this but it's just not as nice looking as X's army which he paid some golden daemon painter to do for him so you're going to be finishing below him in the tournament". The difference between a tournament & playing at home or a club is the competition, if you can't compete anymore why bother going to make up the numbers so the guy who bought a painted army can get more masters points?

    Dave A

  5. Unfortunately, having a tournament based around a minimum painting standard is not inclusive as it only rewards one type of gamer. Even if there were three painting awards how would it be inclusive if the tournament comprised of 50% "hobby gamers"?
    It also encourages the very subjective aspect that only battle points should really count towards winning a tournament - everyone likes winning, even super painters! I feel a Warhammer tournament should be more like a triathlon - if you totally suck at the swim then you don't deserve to win the gold medal. For instance under a "triathlon" based scoring system people like you Pete would still win tournaments!
    Furthermore, what about the power gamer who chops and changes list all the time doing the most minimum standard of painting, compared to "the perfect painter" who does not do that as he has spent hours and hours slaving meticulously away on his units? Someone like this often has less time for practise games compared with the power-gamer.
    If painting points are relegated to a minimum standard it makes Warhammer less about the hobby and more about the game - and realistically Warhammer isn't the greatest game out there, there are plenty of "games" better than! Why not just play a computer game? LAN games of Shadow of the Horned Rat at the Cashmere School hall? Chess?

    1. Understand what you are saying but having a threshold painting level for full points has increased the overall painting standard - at least in Wellington.

      As a TO I have found that more people dislike subjective points (when it applies to them)than having certainty over their painting score. The whinging that used to go on over comp scores and painting scores was tragic. Now my personal attitude is "Go and have a cup of concrete" but my financial head tells me to accommodate the most people.

      Your point about overall winners being the same is correct though. Regardless of system people adapt.

      I think your computer game analogy is strawman. The average standard of painted armies here in Welly is high and I think that that has come from people knowing those points are attainable - rather than only a portion of them if great painters turn up. The effort they have made has not diminished.

      As a great man once said to Slayer Sword winner Leigh Carpenter when he turned up at the Oz WHFB Masters "Golden Daemon is down the hall, fourth door on the left".

    2. Well, the standard is obviously not that high as a nearly unpainted army was able to garner 86.66% of the available painting points.
      I don't think the computer game "analogy is a straw man....I'll "flesh" my example out a little.
      Warhammer the table top game is technically an incomplete rule-set: it has books that straddle two, sometimes three editions, it has a large and unwieldy lexicon of terms and jargon, new edition books still require FAQ's that require an intimate knowledge of all books, success (at least in a tournament setting)is often dependent on having access to all the different army books and an ability to recall this information. When you compare Warhammer the table-top "game" to a computer game of Shadow of the Horned Rat (SotHR) you will find that SotHR has set parameters, all its rules contained in its programming, no FAQ's, no arguing about distances and it comes with a set standard of presentation!
      So why do we play Warhammer? A very nerdy philosophical question. Well, I think it's the tactile elements, the beautiful painting that varies dramatically from painter to painter, the fluff and the stories that surround or own armies and their achievements and just plain old rolling dice with your mates.
      That's why we don't play Warmachine. And if we ignore or relegate those beautiful elements about our game we deter other non-powergamer gamers from playing Warhammer....and they end up playing Warmachine instead (as is the case in Auckland that easily gained 30 Warmachiners from Fantasy)or other systems (which I've realised is not a bad thing but it would be nice to see some of those other players coming back every-once-in-a-while).
      Anyway that's my two cents. I'm not saying that competitive "gaming" is on-the-whole a bad thing, it just needs some balance to the force, where people with different skill sets can pick up tournament points in a tournament environment, because that is their skill - not just remembering every rule and FAQ under the sun. That is not Warhammers greatest strength.

    3. I thought they played Warmachine because they struggled to win at WHFB and 40k....that was my experience anyway.

      Rory, you are not comparing apples and apples. Mathew Collett's army was "charitably" marked but I suggest you ask your Nerdymen clubmates and I hope they will tell you it was a glaring exception.

      On the checklist I use it would get (and has got) 4/15 in the past.

      In Wellington at least - the only centre I can speak authoritatively on - both the average and lower quartile standard has increased considerably with a threshold painting system.

      What it doesn't do is give you any incentive to do more. I was asking for suggestions to incentivise people to take the extra step with - from my only anecdotal understanding of what drives attendance at FOB events - the caveat that the underlying competitive gaming side is not compromised.

      I think it is great that the Nerdymen are running a hobby event. What will be interesting to see after the back is feedback from participants. My experience - based on the 40k scene where I won 6 Games Workshop Grand Tournaments in NZ and OZ - is that the more subjectivity in scoring, the more whinging either on forums or behind closed doors. Charges of inconsistency, favouritism etc get levelled. Hopefully the Auckland WHFB is more mature and the feedback will be universally positive. As an aside the best thing to encourage this is to say you do not want the event included in the rankings.

    4. Obviously my comment re Warmachine is tongue in check before anyone gets upset.

      I lost a whole group of mates to Warmachine when 8th Ed was released - love you Deno!

    5. I'd like to just add that even if the painting in question was only awarded a "Pete Score" of 4/15 (instead of a "Ray Score" of 13/15), the overall results would not have changed.

      Storm in a teacup?

      Also, why is painting ability scored more highly than converting or sculpting ability? Anyone can slap some paint on - it takes real imagination and skill to convert/scratchbuild a bell! ;)

  6. Part of the problem with harder painting scores is that even once a checklist gets too complicated it becomes subjective... What counts as extensive highlighting, rather than minimal? How much detail is enough to have detailed faces? Do we have to simply have done this, or done it well? what constitutes well? Battle scores aren't controversial in this way. I'm not convinced that complex paint scores can be implemented without bias, intended or not. A different style may take as much time and effort, be preferred by some, hated by others, and punished by comp for not ticking the boxes on a painting checklist. Better to have a minimal standard and a parallel best painted competition. Perhaps a single model or unit comp as well as an overall army one?

  7. I had written a big waffly post but it seems to have not posted. So here's another one :) I agree that it should be used (as it is currently) to motivate people to meet a decent standard so that everyone can enjoy thier games. If you want to take the time to do that yourself or pay someone else to do it thats fine, everyone is on an even field unless you don't make the effort or spend the money in which case you are penalised. If you are someone who is a great painter you can compete for the painting trophy.

    If you make it so that you take a penalty if you can't match other people's painting, people who are competitive will want their army to be painted by the best to get an edge, this will at the end of the day come down to wallet size and some people will not be able to compete.

    It's not a fair comparison of painting skill to skill playing an army in terms of who the winner of a competition should be. If for no other reason than at the end of the day I could pay someone else to do a fantastic paint job, I can't pay Pete to play my army for me :)

    1. The example of getting someone else to paint your army by way of cash IS a "strawman" argument! It is based on the fallacy that everyone is going to rush out and do it in order to gain points. The reality is, is that these people will be found out (especially in a community as small as NZ)....people also don't tend to rock up to a tournament with a freshly painted army without friends or members of their club knowing where it has come from! What about the person who painted it? Lol

    2. I wasn't suggesting that they would keep it secret?

      Perhaps I misunderstood your original argument are you saying if you get anyone else to paint all or some part of your army then you get 0 points for painting in a tournament?

  8. Why not remove painting all together but deduct BP from armies like Matt C's if they arent at least painted. Then have a separate painting competition on day 2. Winners of that get separate prizes and maybe BP bonuses

    Why doesnt Matt paint or at least assemble his army its been 3yrs and it still looks like crap

    1. The current system is supposed to do exactly what you've proposed John by giving standard painted armies full marks.

  9. The blog post states that "...the tournament is not a painting competition and as long as you achieve a certain standard then it shouldn't impact your results."

    This is similar to a discussion on sportsmanship that was on here last year sometime. Essentially, all players have a base level painting score and a base level sportsmanship score so long as they meet a minimum level. This then feeds into the tournament points and produces an "Overall" winner, as per the Horned Rat Player Pack.

    I would argue that this does not actually produce an Overall winner. This is effectively a Generalship winner because basically everyone gets max points for painting and sportsmanship and it is only on Generalship that people are actually competing.

    If you want a true Overall winner then it must be possible to compete across all areas where you are scored. I think your idea of having a base level of points that can then be built would assist in this. I would suggest going further and making the base 8 points to provide enough room for painting to truly differentiate and contribute towards determining an actual overall winner, while still maintaining incentive to meet the minimum.

    However, the other thing you suggested is also a really good idea - introducing additional painting trophies. If you did that then you could keep the base level painting at 15 to ensure sufficient motivation to achieve a minimum level of painting when competing for the Generalship award, and then reward those that were after the painting trophy and didn't quite make it. I believe this would incentivise more people to try to go the extra mile while keeping the painting score out of the tournament results. However, it would do nothing to provide "..variation at the top end".

    So it depends what you are after - do you want to move away from what is essentially a Generalship awards to an actual Overall award, or do you want to keep the Overall award as is and instead extend the painting side as its own competition. Based on your other writings I think keeping the painting score maxed and introducing additional painting trophies would be the better option and would better meet your requirement to get people to go the extra mile.

    I concur that the painting trophies should be for the persons own work, but that purchased work should not impact on the painting score as it contributes to the overall result.

    Thanks for the excellent blog - I check it most days, and I don't play Warhammer Fantasy!

    1. Wow that looked way shorter when I was typing it - my apologies for the long response!

  10. I thought Pete's original post was now that everyone has 3 colours and some quick shade and a conversion or two how do I raise the bar again so that everyone gets to play against beutiful armies. Playing nice people with beautiful armies on great scenery is the only reason to play miniature wargames otherwise we might as well play chess or a computer game.