Friday, February 25, 2011

Deep Thoughts: Paint Etiquette

In a typical weekend I might play two games, multiply that by playing two or three weekends a month and I get to play around four to six games per month. In the last few months I have played against one fully painted army while the rest were all either partially painted or straight GW plastic grey. Which begs the question – where did all the paint escape off to?
I once knew a gamer with an infatuation, no – an obsession, with the color purple. So when there was never any purple paint to be found, it was explainable. However, this current crisis transcends even my humble attempts to explain them away. To put it simply, the new guys are not painting anything. Which begs the question – why?

Hypothesis one: They are intimidated by gamers with painted armies. Yes, I know my crisp clean paint job is intimidating. My blending is perfect and all my shading is marvelous, and I’m humble to boot. Lets face it, there are very few of us who paint to the insane standards of what we find showcased on the interwebz. Like women shouting at the TV ‘Go eat a cheeseburger and have a baby!’ when the Victoria’s Secret commercials come on, we hold ourselves to insane standards that less than 1% of people will ever reach. Sadly we are not comfortable with our own level of skill and instead of practicing to get better we simply don’t try.

Hypothesis two:  They are lazy and only really want establish their dominance over lesser members of the herd through ritualistic beating of their armies on the field of battle. They snarl at the thought of ‘soft scores’ like painting and sportsmanship, like Conan they demand to hear the lamentations of the women as their enemies are driven before them. Only wins and losses are important and in the grim darkness of the far future there is only war, not painting. Sportsmanship? Painting? Pshaw, these are unnecessary encumbrances that the victor need not trouble himself with.
At the end of the day I think its number one with a bit of number two on top. Example; the proof is fact. I once saw a hobbyist showing pictures in his ‘Work in Progress’ thread on a forum lay out at least 1,000 dollars on a forgeworld army complete with a Reaver titan. He converted, cleaned and offered all manner of minor conversions on this rather expensive army but never progressed further then priming them in over a year of posting pictures. The Reaver was cleaned and primed but never progressed, plastic Cadians were posted with ‘test cammo schemes’ and when critique of the scheme was offered or advice for improving it, the suggestions were dismissed with humor and bravado in an effort to hide embarrassment.
This hobbyist found themselves in the position of having an army far above their abilities to paint and instead of practicing and trying to get better, the prospect of not doing justice to the beautiful army intimidated our poor hobbyist into not doing anything with the army at all.
The moral of the story is simple: Don’t be scared to learn, don’t be scared to get better. Don’t be intimidated by the level of painting other people achieve – they were all mere mortals like the rest of us one time. Only by practicing did they get better, only by making mistakes and pushing beyond their abilities did they get better.
Don’t be afraid to fail.




  1. We recently had the same thoughts in our gaming group. And since we run a number of tournaments are torn on weather we should require a 3 color standard to help "push" some of the reluctant painters along. I think we settled on switching where the painting prize would be, i.e. best HQ, best Heavy, best troop squad.


  2. It takes a lot, but sometimes the most important step is just to start.

    I spent a long time "thinking" about a scheme for one of my armies, but then I just had to paint some, I have a fully painted army, and it has really increased my enjoyment of painting them.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Bravo. We are seeing some of our new players in the same boat, and "just get started" is the chant of the week.

    Playing painted armies on a cool-looking board can be a reward all its own, even in our for-fun pickup games.

    The Emperor Protects...those that are painted.

  4. I blame the video games.....

    well by that I mean I think there's a smattering of another possibility in there- attention spans are dwindling. Media is experiencing a dumbing down of sorts. Magazines become blogs. Blogs become twitter feeds and facebook updates, etc etc. Couple that with the proliferation of short doses of entertainment content and I don't know if the kids have the attention span to sit through an hour or two at the painting table- five minutes in, the kid would be jonesin' for a red bull and a game of angry birds.

    ....this isn't to say that I disagree with your opinion at all, but rather that I think the situation is very complex

  5. Paint or Die!

    Or at least, if it ain't painted you don't game with it. That is the only way to ensure you start taking painting seriously. That and entering tournaments where painting is enforced or stores that still insist that models have to be painted to be used in store.

    My local gaming store is old school like that, and I like it just fine.

    A fully painted army, is a mark of someone who cares. People who just play with plastic, day after day, year after year, just don't care. I find people who paint their own figs are more fun to play against, simple as that.

  6. I don't know whether to salute you for the final flourish and general gist of this post, or tut and shake my head at all this lines-in-the-sand with-me-or-against-me sweeping-generalisations business that seems to be going on. Off the top of my head, I can think of five reasons why someone's stuff might not be painted before it hits the table. If you'd like to discuss them, you'll find them here.