I was having a discussion on twitter (that immediately got derailed) about what sort of painting projects can be fun, and I suggested painting up board games like Hellboy or Dungeon Saga, as board games stand in isolation. No one expects the game pieces to be painted so its a nice stress free distraction, but armies for Warhammer 40K? There’s a definite expectation that armies should be painted or at least will be painted over time, and that can sometime make it feel like work – I have to get this painted or I can’t field it.
Someone bounced into the conversation to say that thats not true. GW don’t have any such barriers up, if you want to play with unpainted pieces you can, and any pressure is just from a few individuals in the community. I’m afraid I can’t agree.
Now, I’m not saying that shouldn’t be the case! I’ll happily play anyone if I think I’ll have a fun game. But the hobby is definitely based around the concept of playing with painted armies. Many people will flat out refuse to play unpainted armies. Some stores won’t allow less than a three colour minimum. Warhammer World events have a fairly stringent set of requirements that involve no bits from other manufacturers, fully painted, and these events are described as the “pinnacle of the hobby” by Warhammer World – which clearly indicates the aspirational goal for people in the GW community. On twitter, you’ll regularly see campaigns to “#PlayItPainted”. There’s a meme stratagem aimed at unpainted models that floats around featuring the face of GW painting, Duncan Rhodes. Whether or not its right, playing with painted armies is expected in tournaments, in many stores, and by many players and the wider community. Saying “you can play how you like” doesn’t help if opponents walk away and you can’t take part in events.
If you just want to play at home against a mate, you can do what you like. If you want to buy into the wider community, you do have to go along with the general community rules, and at the moment, that would seem to be painted armies, or at least working towards that goal.
I rarely play, and paint far more. I love painting. But at the moment, things are stacked against those who don’t like painting but love the game, short of throwing money at commission painters.
And is the pressure to be at least moving towards painted minis bad? Its a far more absorbing experience for me, and anecdotally many others when all the models are clearly identified in glorious colours instead of sprue grey where you can’t identify the weapons or gear easily.
Is there a good answer? Introduce gaming tournaments where all that matters are results? Deprecate the painting part of the hobby to make it more about the game? There isn’t a perfect solution.
All I can do is enjoy painting my minis, and be willing to have a fun game whenever I can, regardless of how painted the opposition is.