The Long War, Painted Models V Unpainted.

Picture if you will the scene, me and John are setting up our, admittedly very purple, armies on a nicely laid out table at our local gaming centre. Its shaping up to be a fun, cinematic experience with some cool scenery, painted models and good laughs.


Tabled, John lost 0 units either thanks to my cursed dice skills.

Setting up next to us is a kid with a Forgeworld army of bare half built resin models, his opponent rocks up and unloads a pile of space marines that have been sprayed with some sort of red car paint, bases and all, as well as a storm raven. I say a storm raven, but this is 3/4 of a Storm Raven, there’s no doors, no weapons, its essentially an empty shell again sprayed in red car paint.

I was almost sick in my mouth.

I’m the first to admit there’s no right or wrong way of playing this shit, we’re all black sheep here, fuck the rules apart from the ones in the book yeah?

I think perhaps I’m biased towards the painting aspect as I enjoy that more than playing if I’m honest, but I cannot see the point of playing  a game with a half arsed army. Why spend hundreds of pounds, dollars or euro’s on an army only to field it half painted or worse, half built? It makes the game seem like an overly complex game of Risk then, with board pieces rather than miniatures.

Corehammers Duggan shares a very similar viewpoint to myself :-

If it ain’t painted, I ain’t fielding it. Something about everything on the table being painted, no matter what level of skill, is majestic. I’d feel bad if I rolled up with a grey plastic and metal unpainted force.

But in the other camp, two of my northern mates really enjoy the tactical side, the game play element but has only a handful of finished models at his disposal. One doesn’t really enjoy painting, the other just doesn’t do it much, both can paint to a really good standard when they put their mind to it as well,  I’d say on the flip-side, that the other guys see painting as a waste of gaming time perhaps? Why paint an army when you can visualize it in your own minds eye and just get the fuck out there and roll the dice? From a gamers perspective, using up those valuable spare man hours when pressed with the time constraints of modern life, painting when the galaxy could be burning.

My man Matt Geary from over at Geek Pride had this to say on the subject:

“For me painting is a secondary pleasure, if you will. Dont get me wrong, I enjoy making and painting minis but playing the game and learning to be good at it is my primary… it’s all about the WIN! When I get a game that I really want to play it frustrates me somewhat that I have to make up models and paint them before I enter the battlefield. This is probably why I love Dust Tactics and am looking into X-Wing as they are pretty much ‘plug and play’ games, where the only time needed is to learn the rules..”

The CH Harelquin, Marsden has a pragmatic approach to his own games:

Prefer playing with painted stuff, but I’m not a stickler for it. Smaller games I’ll tend towards as fully painted as I can, larger ones I’d rather have a game than not, so will play with bare plastic and headless minis. Plus then I can paint what looks cool and take as long as I want over it rather than rushing for a game. I refuse to strip models I’ve painted though. I like being able to look back and see how I’ve improved.


Me and Marsdens duel match with our HQ. Looked epic.

I’m no painting snob, which I guess some people might think by my refusal to play with anything unpainted, or my constant moaning when an opponent turns up with endless grey plastic. Far from it, I totally respect the effort you, or anyone else puts in to a model. I’m no ‘eavy metal painter, I just do my best, no one can ask any more from anyone else can they? If a models just base coated with some painted sand on the base, that’s cool, its gonna make a game look great when its stood out there on the battlefield with the rest of your force.

Sean Kennedy-Brennan, stands somewhere in the middle ground with a nice take on how he’s beginning to approach things:

I prefer painted models but will play with unpainted but constructed models, hate half built models you can’t even recognise. I love the painting side of it but have so much I want to do at once I get nothing done, and end up with base coated models. My biggest problem is in my mind I know what I want but don’t take the time to paint. But as with you and Marsden I’ve begun taking my time and getting shit done and pushing myself to get the best quality. I now treat it like I would an art project at college, research, investigate and plan.

Corehammers own LB takes a similar stance to myself in that :

Imo it completely ruins the game. I’m not a tactical player going to the win all the time. I like having a laugh and part of that is seeing both armies lining up on the board.

Steve Leighton also of Corehammer comes up with this pearl, which I can totally understand as someone who plays in tournaments:

I take a huge amount of pride in my painted vampires and wood elves. If I bust them out, I’d like to play vs painted and offer the same to opponents who’d rather play my painted army than my work in progress stuff. That said, I like to really put a list through it’s paces during the painting stages, I’d rather change my list before I am dropping 10 lovingly painted hex wraiths and like to build and paint the army I like to play. So naturally during all this, I’m playing unpainted/proxy minis and am happy for opponents to do the same.


Bloodbowl, unpainted team versus painted, you decide!

I find it hard to engage with a game that’s not painted (which likely says more about me than it does about anyone else), as an artist and tattooist himself, Corehammers resident visuals guy Adam “Sketch” Chandler says:

On the last time we all played at Warhammer World I got such a buzz from seeing what everyone had painted  no matter the skill level it made the day for me , there was a Heresy game taking place a few tables up and it totally killed me seeing all those awesome models unpainted 

Mirrored by Witchfinder General Chris:

(I) much prefer playing painted stuff, no matter what your level is
it might not be up to scratch in your eyes, but when it’s on a proper table (like Sketch said at WHW) it all looks mint.

At least get some basecoats and washes down as bare minimum and maybe do the bases, then go back later to do the highlights, details, accessories etc later.

So in conclusion….there is no conclusion. Having spoken with a myriad of people with varying viewpoints, I at least now understand why some people don’t have fully painted armies, and respect that, time constraints, real life commitments. However I also still stand firmly in the no paint no game camp at least for my own armies, but might be more forgiving in future toward non painted oppo’s. But if you’ve not even built your toy soldiers properly, you can fuck right off.

3 thoughts on “The Long War, Painted Models V Unpainted.

  1. I’d like to pretend I have some sort of principles in this area, but I really don’t. Provided I can tell what everything is from four feet away, and you haven’t been using that same Dreadnought with no arms for the last year (“but the next Codex might invalidate dual autcannons and – ” “for fuck’s sake, rare earth magnets are a fiver a bag and you can borrow my pin vice, get to it”), I’m easy. Some people are utterly shit painters, don’t care for painting at all, and I’d rather they played unpainted than ruined some figures with a half-arsed job that they weren’t into. Actually, scratch that, I’d rather they bunged me fifty quid to basecoat their army over a week of quiet evenings in, but you get the idea; I’m not into making people do a bad job of something they don’t want to do.

    Personally, I don’t especially like painting units. I don’t mind doing a single model of a Sunday, that’s quite fun, but ask me to paint the same guy five or twelve or have-mercy-on-my-soul forty times, and I’m going to phone ’em in on a scale that makes Dom Joly look restrained, and you bet I’m going to play the army while they’re not painted. I have to. It’s the only way I’m going to give enough shits to paint them at all. Gaming, and having fun gaming, makes me want to paint; that improves the spectacle of the game. Painting identical dudesmen for its own sake just doesn’t strike me as fun.

    One of the few good things to come out of the GW blog was that idea that a model has three chances to impress: on its own, in a unit, or as part of an army. I use that as a gauge for how much I want to bother with a model. My Zombies impress as part of an army, the big dark wall of dead bodies coming for you; my Grave Guard have to impress as a unit ’cause they’re actually going to be a priority target, with attention paid to ’em; my Vampires and Banshees might be running around on their own and so they actually have to look decent when picked up and inspected. Same with Warmachine; the twelve-man units just have to be a decent-looking red blur, it’s the casters and battlegroups where the effort needs to go in.

  2. Just stumbled across your blog. Great stuff.

    On this particular topic I’m with Marsden and Sean. I used to be strict about not playing with unpainted minis but realised I’d never get to play anything as I am a slow/perfectionist painter (though I’ve sped up dramatically recently). So I will use as many painted minis as I can but all will at least be assembled and airbrush (zenithal) undercoated. I’ll usually prioritise aesthetic over tactical value.

    Infinity is one of my main games and it’s a real bugbear when I’m playing against someone who’s just got some bare metal mini blu-tacced to a base.Pretty much everything being humanoid it can be really hard to distinguish between the scary high point uber model and the 6 point cheerleader.

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