Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The effect of painting on the use of miniatures.

Lets be honest, everyone has likely run across a player that doesn't bother to even try to paint their miniatures. It happens for a variety of reasons. I personally don't mind it so much, but lets look at the effect painting your miniatures can have on how they are used in games. Keep in mind, this is entirely my opinion, but I believe I'm reasonably correct in my theories.

When you see an army that looks a lot like this...

Add caption
Basically bare plastic.

You tend to see the person playing typically not investing as much into their army. Either in how they talk about it, how they use it on the table, or even in their care for the army. A lot of times you see those armies tossed into a box between games (I know I've seen several armies like that). Basically the person has only put in the time to get them assembled.

Now, this could just be that the person hasn't had the time to begin painting the figs. Everyone has those hectic times after all. But when you see that same army month after month with nothing done to it, you realize that a few things might be up. One thing could be that the person doesn't feel they can paint it to a standard they would like, which is an honest feeling for a number of people. Another thing could be they just don't feel it's worth the effort, can't say I believe that but every player has their own take on the hobby.

Then you find the armies that are painted to a three color standard...
Using an example of one of my figs during work on it, unfinished, but just to show a point.
The player has obviously spent a bit of time on the army, beyond the desprue and glue together point. They are likely more involved with the army, and likely to show a fondness for the army beyond it's ability to just be on the table. Sometimes the army will stay at that painting level, and that's perfectly fine as long as the player is happy with it. Maybe a three color standard is all they feel they can do with the army without 'messing it up'. Or even that it just needs the three colors to be playable.

I can't say that it's wrong to leave an army at that level, because it's not my army after all. But the players that have put in the effort to reach that level tend to seem to enjoy playing the army more overall. A lack of hobby skill shouldn't deter people from getting their miniatures painted to this level, especially if they like the army. You don't have to be a perfect painter or an artiste to get a decent looking paint job done. And lets face it, if you are willing to put in the effort to reach a basic three color level, you'll likely find some people around your FLGS that can help bring it up a level for free (because, lets face it, some of us love the hobby side of the games we play).

Then you run into those armies that have had a fair amount of time and effort put into them beyond just painting...

A local players Khornate army, with his display base. Love playing this guy, his army is just sweet to see.

These armies show a lot of attention to detail, sometimes with custom bases/resin bases/etc, the details are lavished upon. Not everyone can spend the time, or has the talent, to get this kind of army painting done. It is possible to get those things done if you can't do them, but a lot of the time (like most of the time) it will cost you in the wallet department. Artists tend to like being paid for their effort after all.

But even those that don't feel they are artists can still make their army 'pop' with some minor work. Even a three color army will reach a new level if you do some easy work on the bases, adding rocks, static grass, snow, etc. Those things can really help a 'looks good' army jump to the 'damn that looks nice' level without a ton of effort. And lets be honest, taking that time can help you really be involved with the hobby side of the game. You'll feel more invested in the army, and that feeling of investment can lead to more fun at the table, and at times even better play (yes, I mean that, having a good looking army can help you focus on the play which is a big help in play improvement).

Basic hobby skills aren't hard to develop, and with them you can feel your army is looking better and better. I'll be putting up some tips and tutorials in the coming weeks that cover some of the basics, such as customizing bases, use of various materials for basing, as well as basic highlight and shading techniques.

Feel free to comment, I'd love to here what people think on this topic.


  1. It isn't always possible to judge just by the state of the figs. Sometimes they've put even less effort into it! Those assembled or 3-color armies are just as likely to be second hand, where all the effort the player put into them is forking over payment and unboxing.

    Nothing wrong with that, and lots of great armies start out as a second hand purchase, but initially there is very little of the player in the army.

    I agree that I really enjoy playing against the really well done armies, and not just for the spectacle aspect (though I love that too). The players who go to that level IME tend to be pretty on the ball.

  2. Second hand and even third hand armies aren't bad in any way. And they can lead to a player really investing into an army, even if he/she didn't get the start on it initially. I've known several people who bought the core of their army and grew it beyond with the same care that the original owner had started it with. And that is a great thing to see.